Day At The Track

Derek Balle outed for three months

11:41 AM 07 Apr 2015 NZST
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Derek Balle - Outed for three months for improper driving
Derek Balle - Outed for three months for improper driving
File Photo
Harness Racing New Zealand produces stewards reports for every meeting. We thought we would provide the background to some of the more serious cases
                                                           Judicial Control Authority
Rules: 869(3)(f)
Committee: NMcCutcheon (chair)
Name(s): Mr D Balle - Open Horseman
Informants : Mr S Mulcay - Stipendiary Steward  -  Mr J Muirhead - Stipendiary Steward
Information Number - A7452
Plea: Admitted
Charge: Improper Driving
Evidence:  Mr Balle was told by the Chairman that the charge was relatively serious and asked was he comfortable with the hearing taking place on the day. He responded in the affirmative.
(The hearing commenced following the running of the final race at the request of Mr Balle).
Following the running of Race 3 (The Sportys Bar & Café Mobile Trot 1750m) Information No. A7452 was filed with the Judicial Committee.
 The Information read that horseman Mr D Balle drove improperly when he shifted Sir George Grey  wider on the track which presented a clear run for the stablemate Call Son over the early stages of the run home.
Rule 869(3) (f) reads: No horseman in any race shall drive improperly.
Mr Balle acknowledged that he understood the rule, the charge and confirmed that he admitted the breach.
Mr Muirhead showed all films and said that prior to the home straight Mr Balle and Sir George Grey were placed three-out and one-back and that he was trailing a horse driven by Mr Poutama (Miss Middleton) and on his inside was the stablemate Call Son driven by Mr Abernethy.
He said you then see Mr Balle come off looking for a run and he goes wider than necessary which allowed the other horse (Call Son) to get through.
Mr Muirhead said that the crucial part of the alleged offence was that when Mr Balle came out his horse’s head was turned out and his horse was steered out in the direction it went.
He said that shortly afterwards when Call Son had got through he straightened his horse.
He said that early on he was racing three-wide and then moved to six-wide which meant that the horse on his inside (Call Son) was able to obtain a run between his horse and Mr Poutama’s horse.
He added that Call Son went on to win the race and that Mr Balle’s drive Sir George Grey went on to finish fifth.
When showing the film positioned in the back straight Mr Muirhead said that the horse on the inside (Call Son) never had any clear advantage of Sir George Grey to push out and only got a clear run when Sir George Grey shifted wider and wider on the track.
He said that during investigations into the drive, Mr Balle told the Stipendiary Stewards that he had steered his horse out there.
Mr Muirhead added that this type of driving cannot be tolerated by the Stewards and it questions the integrity of the industry and brings it into disrepute.
Mr Balle, for his part, said that the horse Sir George Grey had carried on running out after the stablemate had gone past him.
The gap appeared and his horse continued running out all the way up the straight and that the gap was always going to appear as his horse kept running out to its own detriment.
He said that his horse ended up seven or eight horses wider than he had to.
He added that there was always going to be room for the stablemate anyway.
He then said he came out to get balanced up and if Sir George Grey went as good as he normally does that we probably wouldn’t be sitting here.
He said that his horse’s run was disappointing and the fact that Call Son ran past him did not help, but that nine times out of ten Sir George Grey would beat the other horse (Call Son).
He said that while he was charged with improper driving it was more clumsy driving without any intent.
The Chair then asked Mr Balle if he could show where he attempted to straighten his horse.
In response Mr Balle said that you cannot pull him about, he has to straighten himself and that he is a big overgrown horse.
He said that he came out to get some clear air, that he was the favourite and if he had run up to his usual standard he would have won but he just battled away up the straight.
Some discussion then took place between the Stipendiary Steward and Mr Balle as to when the hood was removed, but this was considered irrelevant by the committee.
As the charge was admitted it was found to be proved.
Submission For Penalty:
Mr Muirhead said that the JCA penalty guildelines under Rule 869(3) (f) had a starting point of 20 drives suspension or a fine of $1000.
He said that Mr Balle had said to them that he preferred a suspension and that the Stipendiary Stewards had no objection.
He said that Mr Balle is a very experienced horseman who had in the past driven at the highest level and said that he had been driving at a lesser rate over the last few years.
Mr Balle’s driving record showed that this season he had had 11 drives.
The 2013-2014 season 16 drives.  -   The 2012-2013 season 36 drives.
Mr Muirhead said that if you were to start at the 20 drives suspension with Mr Balle’s current number of drives that it would equate to a suspension of approximately 6 months.
He said that Mr Balle should be given credit for being very frank with the Stewards, his admittance of the breach and that he (Mr Balle) believed it was a careless act rather than intentional.
He added that Mr Balle had a clear record over the last 12 months and had a very good record during his driving career.
The Stewards submitted that a suspension of no less than 3 months be imposed.
Mr Muirhead referred the Chair to Rule 1114(2) (d) in that a Judicial Committee in imposing a penalty may have regard to the need to maintain integrity and public confidence in harness racing.
Mr Balle said that he does not drive that often but that it was handy to have his licence when you need it to drive a young horse or a horse starting off.
He said that he trains mainly trotters and that it is good to have a licence to drive inexperienced or green horses.
He said a suspension was preferable to a fine although it was still handy to have a licence when you need it.
He added that it was a careless or clumsy drive rather than anything intentional to help a stablemate, as he believed he (Call Son) would have got plenty of room anyway with the big open track and reiterated that his horse ran out all the way up the straight as could be seen on the video.
When asked by the Chair if he would like to respond to Mr Muirhead’s submission re a 3 month suspension being imposed, Mr Balle said that he thought that that was plenty.
Mr Balle said that if he was suspended he would be able to get replacement drivers for the second day of the meeting.
Reasons For Penalty:
The committee took into account the following matters when assessing quantum of penalty;
The JCA starting point of 20 drives suspension or $1000 fine.
The mitigating factors were the admittance of the breach and Mr Balle’s very good record over a number of years plus that he had been cooperative with the Stewards during the enquiry into his drive.
The aggravating factors were the seriousness of the breach, which the Chairman placed in the high category with Mr Balle letting his horse shift out several horse widths and making no attempt whatsoever to correct its line of running until after stablemate Call Son had got through on his inside.
Mr Balle’s improper driving allowed a stablemate to secure a clear run with that horse going on to win the race.
Mr Balle’s drive Sir George Grey was the favourite for the event and those punters that invested on the horse would have expected and deserved a better standard of driving.
The type of driving displayed by Mr Balle is unacceptable under any circumstance and questions the integrity of harness racing.
Penalties are imposed to not only penalise the person concerned, but also to deter others from doing likewise.
Hence the level of penalty imposed needs to be sufficient to maintain public confidence within the industry.
After very careful consideration of all matters relating to penalty the committee adopted a starting point of a 4 month suspension.
The starting point adopted being due to the seriousness of the breach.
Taking into account the admittance of the breach and Mr Balle’s very good record this was reduced to a term of suspension of 3 months.
Mr Balle’s horseman’s licence was suspended from 17 March 2015 up to and including 17 June 2015.
Judicial Control Authority
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