Stewards go to VCAT on decision
Harness Racing Victoria stewards have applied to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a review of the decision by HRV Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board after Avenel reinsman Josh Aiken successfully appealed a six-week driving suspension from a race at Melton last November,
Aiken, who represented himself at the December 14 hearing, was found not guilty by the disciplinary board relating to a charge issued by HRV Stewards under Australian Harness Racing Rule 149(1) of failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures when the driver of Eljaykay Phoenix in Race 2 at Tabcorp Park Melton on November 5.
The appeals board, chaired by Tony Burns, said while Aiken may have made an error of judgement he was not culpable of the serious charge laid by stewards.
Mr Burns said in his finding: ‘‘Mr Aiken, driving the favourite, finished in second placing in circumstances where the stewards assert he should have maintained a trail four wide around 400 m from the finish line to move five wide into the straight for a clear run home. This had in fact been the horse’s recent racing pattern in two of its last three starts.
‘‘Instead Mr Aiken moved down the track to a position behind the second favourite — three out from the pegs. While this seems to be an odd decision, it was made by Mr Aiken on the basis that he perceived the horse was racing roughly and moving his head around. Stewards agree this did occur momentarily as well. Mr Aiken’s evidence was that he recognised the horse’s behaviour to be a precursor to it breaking into a gallop.
‘‘Indeed the horse had broken or behaved badly in 10 of its last 17 starts while it had won only two of its last 17 starts after being a most promising two-year-old.
‘‘Mr Aiken has driven this horse in all but two of its 32 starts and it is reasonable to presume that no one knows it better.
‘‘To find the charge proven we would need to be able to comfortably reject his evidence that he perceived the horse was about to gallop.’’
The review will be listed for a VCAT directions hearing at a date to be fixed.