Day At The Track

Mark Jones victim of unfair system

01:59 PM 26 Jan 2015 NZDT
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Opinion.jpg Mark Jones - Fined heavily for something over which he had no control
Mark Jones - Fined heavily for something over which he had no control

Harness racing in New Zealand continues to have problems with its judicial system and the just released decision regarding Mark Jones and the Remiss blood TCO2 levels case is further proof in our opinion that the system is failing the people who are the principal stakeholders in this industry.

Anyone who has read the long winded report of the hearing in this case will understand the frustration that Mark Jones must feel in that he has been found guilty of being a cheat in the court of public opinion where in reality Mark has done nothing wrong.

The rules of harness racing in New Zealand are crystal clear - if you present a horse to race in New Zealand whose blood TCO2 level exceeds the levels prescribed in the rules then you are guilty and have no defense.

There was no inference from the hearing that Mark Jones had done anything dishonest or corrupt in this case.

In fact there was a wealth of evidence presented which suggested exactly the opposite, that Mark was the victim of a horse in Remiss that had a naturally high blood TCO2 level which landed him in this predicament.

All the evidence points to Mark and his employees having had no part in Remiss returning an elevated level and yet Mark has suffered a large financial hit as a result.

Fines and costs totaled $6925 and you can add to that Mark's own legal costs and the loss of some owners he has suffered due to the negative perceptions cases like this generate.

And all because of something over which Mark had no control.

Disqualify the horse by all means but to impose all the additional costs and for Mark to lose owners over cases like this is manifestly disproportional to Mark's actions in this matter.

Where is the discretionary powers of the JCA in this matter?

Mark Jones did nothing wrong in this instance yet has suffered a major financial setback.

Do the JCA and the RIU have any discretion.

Well they certainly exercised discretion earlier in the week when they allowed Te Kawau to start in the Pelorus Classic.

Stood down after he bled at the pre Xmas meeting at Cambridge, Te Kawau was not eligible to start on Friday as the race fell within his stand down period.

However the RIU and JCA were consulted and used their discretion under the rules to allow Te Kawau to be nominated and accepted for the Group 2 race.

When we contacted HRNZ for comment early last week we were told that everything was done within the rules and that they were happy with the process.

Te Kawau had the necessary vet clearance to start and preformed admirably in Friday's race.

Post race two things happened which we do find disturbing. 

Firstly, taking all the circumstances into account, we would have thought the RIU would have ordered a vet inspection including a scope of Te Kawau so the RIU could reassure themselves that he was well and truly over his bleeding issues.

Secondly a swab of Te Kawau was surely in order as the RIU did swab the first two home and neither of those horses had any issues leading into this race. 

Not the RIU's finest hour in our view.

Another case that has come to light this week is that of driver Mitchell Kerr who has admitted betting on his own drive at the Westport meeting after Xmas.

Under the HRNZ rules, this is viewed as a serious racing offence.

The maximum fine for this offence is $30,000 which is a reflection of how serious a breach of the rules this is.

To his credit Mr Kerr admitted the offence and pleaded ignorance of the rule as his reason for placing the bet.

So after considering a range of matters, the JCA fined Mr Kerr $650.

For an offence that carries a maximum penalty of $30,000 and is deemed a serious breach of the rules, we don't think the bus ticket was even wet.

Compare it to the situation of Mark Jones and large financial hit he has suffered for a situation over which he had no control as opposed to the fine handed out to Mr Kerr for a serious breach of the rules and one starts to have serious doubts about the fairness of the whole system.

The JCA and the RIU need the industry stake holders to have complete confidence in their abilities and that they will apply the rules we operate under fairly and without favour.

From the feedback we regularly receive from industry stakeholders, they are falling well short of that standard at present.

JC - Harnesslink Media

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