Result of an Enquiry (M. Ghiani) heard by the Disciplinary Panel on Thursday 7 January 2021

Published 2021/01/12

1. On 7 January 2021 the independent Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) held an enquiry into whether Mr Marco Ghiani, an apprentice jockey, had committed a breach of Rule (F)35 of the Rules of Racing when riding FARD in The Play 4 to Win at Betway Handicap Stakes (Class 6) (Div I) at Wolverhampton on 19 December 2020.

2. The Stewards at Wolverhampton had found Mr Ghiani to be guilty of careless riding on the final bend of the 6 furlong race “in that [he] did not do enough to prevent [his] horse from shifting ground, into Mr Shaw’s racing line, causing him to take a check off heels”. Due to the fact that Mr Ghiani had been suspended for a total of 20 days within the previous six months for offences involving interference the Stewards at Wolverhampton referred the matter to the independent Disciplinary Panel of the BHA.

3. The BHA was represented at the hearing by Mr Lyn Williams and Mr Ghiani was represented by Mr Rory Mac Neice. No objection was taken to the constitution of the Panel. Mr Ghiani was present at the enquiry (via zoom) but he did not give evidence. In fact, no live evidence was put before the Panel. The matter proceeded on the basis of the videos of the race in question, the transcript of the Steward’s enquiry at Wolverhampton and the submissions of both representatives.

4. The Framework

The BHA, in written and oral submissions, suggested to the Panel a four stage route to decide the issues arising in this matter, as follows:- a) Confirm the finding of breach by the rider, in respect of the Wolverhampton race and decide upon the appropriate penalty. b) If the penalty is greater than a “caution”, then decide upon a further suspension to take account of the rider’s overall record for the 6-month period. c) Decide how many days of suspension should be deferred and for how long. d) Decide if any form of training should be included in the suspension. No objection was taken by Mr Mac Neice to this proposal by the BHA.The Panel took the view that this was a sensible and logical manner in which to approach the matter and we therefore proceeded on that basis.

5. The Wolverhampton Race and Penalty (4.(a) above) The race in question was the 5.00p.m. race at Wolverhampton on 19 December 2020 run over 6 furlongs and 20 yards.There were 10 runners, but the runners of relevance were FARD ridden by Marco Ghiani, TAN ridden by Harrison Shaw and KNOCKABOUT QUEEN ridden by Luke Morris.The incident giving rise to this matter occurred whilst the runners were rounding the bend into the home straight.Mr Ghiani and FARD were on the inside rail and placed behind Faye McManoman riding SHARRABANG.Mr Shaw, riding TAN, was on the outside of Mr Ghiani and clearly visible to Mr Ghiani.Mr Ghiani pulled his mount to the right whilst rounding the bend in order to overtake SHARRABANG and in so doing he took the ground of Mr Shaw and TAN and caused Mr Shaw to take back sharply for two or three strides in order to avoid clipping heels.The unavoidable actions of Mr Shaw then caused “knock on” interference to Mr Morris riding KNOCKABOUT QUEEN.From viewing the videos it was plain and clear to the Panel that when Mr Ghiani pulled his mount to the right to overtake SHARRABANG he was not sufficiently clear of Mr Shaw’s mount.This manoeuvre led to interference being caused to the two runners as detailed above and this interference was obviously not accidental.In his submissions Mr Mac Neice conceded that Mr Ghiani had fallen foul of Rule (F)35 and had ridden carelessly.Accordingly, the Panel had no difficulty in concluding that Mr Ghiani was guilty of careless riding.

6. In the view of the Panel this was a case of misjudgement rather than intentional interference and the BHA Penalty Guidelines suggest a penalty range of 2 – 4 days. Both Mr Williams and Mr Mac Neice were in agreement as to penalty and both suggested that a two-day suspension was appropriate. The Panel accepts the arguments of both advocates in this case that this matter was towards the bottom of the range and, therefore, the decision of the Panel is that Mr Ghiani will be suspended for a period of two days for the Wolverhampton breach.

7. Further Suspension (4(b) above) In the Notes on Penalties for interference offences contained in the Rules of Racing it is recorded at Point 5 that “if a rider is found to have committed a riding offence involving interference and it warrants a suspension and he has already been suspended from riding for a total of 20 days or more for interference within the previous 6 months he should be referred to the Disciplinary Panel”.This provision brings this case before the Panel today.These are known as “totting up” provisions.In the event that the Disciplinary Panel impose only a caution for the latest offence then the totting up provisions fall away. However, in this case the Panel has imposed a two-day suspension for the latest offence and therefore the totting up provisions come into play and the Panel must decide upon an appropriate period of suspension over and above, and additional to, the suspension for the latest offence.In the usual way the case must be looked at as a whole and appropriate weight must be given to aggravating and mitigating features.

8. Mr Ghiani has an unenviable recent record in relation to offences of careless riding in the last 6 months. His record is as follows:-

10.08.20 – Leicester Careless riding 2 days

22.08.20 – Sandown Careless riding 3 days

28.08.20 – Goodwood Careless riding 3 days

03.09.20 – Chelmsford Careless riding 2 days

15.10.20 – Chelmsford Careless riding Caution

19.10.20 – Windsor Careless riding 10 days.

Thus, in summary there were six offences of careless riding prior to the Wolverhampton offence since 10 August 2020 which carried a total of 20 days of suspension.

9. The BHA submits that there are significant aggravating features in this case. It is submitted that the seven careless riding offences actually occurred over a much shorter period than 6 months; namely, from 10 August 2020 to 19 December 2020 which is a period of only 131 days. The Panel observes that if the days of suspension are deducted then the seven offences occurred over a period of 111 riding days. The Panel takes the view that this is a very bad record on any view. The BHA also suggested that the position of Mr Ghiani is aggravated due to the fact that he only had 125 rides during the period that the offences/suspensions occurred i.e. 10 August 2020 to 19 December 2020.This means that Mr Ghiani committed a careless riding offence on an average of one ride in every 18.In the view of the Panel that is a lamentable record.There was much discussion during the hearing of estimates and statistics relating to the number of rides an average jockey would expect to have in a given period and of the ratio of offences to rides which could be expected.We found the arguments on both sides to be of limited assistance.In the view of the Panel it is not possible to lay down hard and fast rules, or even guidance, in relation to matters such as these. The Panel should, in our view, look at these matters on a case by case basis and assess the evidence as a whole and form a considered view of the seriousness of the case on the evidence before it. The evidence will always vary from case to case.In the view of the Panel the number of similar offences over a relatively short period arising from only 125 rides are factors which count very heavily against Mr Ghiani.

10. For his part, Mr Mac Neice assisted the Panel by stressing the points which he contended were capable of mitigating the position of Mr Ghiani. He pointed out that Mr Ghiani had never previously been referred to the Disciplinary Panel. He also reminded the Panel that the relevant 6-month period started on 20 June 2020 and that between then and the first offence on 10 August 2020 Mr Ghiani had had 62 rides without adversely coming to the attention of the Stewards. Mr Mac Neice also noted that the offence at Chelmsford on 15 October 2020 resulted in a caution. Mr Ghiani is still a 5lb claiming apprentice and he is 21 years old. It is to his credit that he admitted liability for the Wolverhampton offence on 19 December 2020. The Panel was also told that Mr Ghiani had some insight into his problems and that he has reflected carefully on his position. He accepts that he “needs to do better” and to that end he has spoken to his coach, Mr Michael Hills, in an effort to address the problems. Mr Mac Neice informed the Panel that Mr Ghiani was finding it more difficult to obtain rides as he rides out his allowances and as he faces competition for rides from senior and more well-known professionals. Mr Ghiani, it was said, was, as a consequence, putting more pressure on himself to perform. The Panel was told that Mr Ghiani would be happy to attend one of the Training Colleges for further assistance and guidance. We have given full effect to each of these submissions in assessing the mitigation in this case.

11. The Notes on Penalties for Interference Offences suggest a bracket of 10 – 28 days for the suspension period in totting up cases, with an entry point of 14 days. Having taken account of all the aggravating and mitigating factors the Panel has decided that the appropriate and fair suspension period in this case is one of 18 days. The two-day suspension for the matter at Wolverhampton must be served consecutively making a total suspension of 20 days.

12. Deferment (4(c) above)

The entry point for a deferred suspension is 3 months.The Panel takes the view that a deferred suspension may be of assistance in that it may encourage Mr Ghiani not to re-offend.We see no reason to depart from the entry point of 3 months for the period of deferment.For suspensions of 16 - 25 days one quarter of the period of suspension may be deferred.Accordingly, the order is for 5 days of the total suspension to be deferred for 3 months.For the avoidance of doubt the dates of suspension are 15 January 2021 and 20 January 2021 to 2 February 2021 inclusive.

13. Training

It is ordered that one day of the suspension is set aside for training at one of the recognised Training Colleges. Afternote Due to the current COVID situation it is unlikely that Mr Ghiani will be able to use one of these suspension days to attend the Racing School as directed by the Panel. Therefore, a day of his suspension will be kept for when he can attend the Racing School. Therefore, he will be free to ride on 2 February but will be suspended on the day that he attends the Racing School.

Notes to Editors:

1. The Panel for the Enquiry was: David Fish QC (Chair), Austin Allison and Ian Stark OBE.

2. Due to the current situation and resulting difficulties arising from the corona virus, temporary changes have been made to how the Judicial Panel operates. Initial changes can be seen in a statement here issued on 1 April, with a further operational update issued on 1 June here. Please note, the BHA Judicial Panel is an independent body which encompasses the Disciplinary Panel, Appeal Board and Licensing Committee. It receives administrative support from the BHA via the Judicial Panel Secretary.