“This has opened a big can of worms!”
DEVASTATED by today’s ruling, Bullys Delight’s connections have vowed to exhaust every avenue to overturn the decision.
First across the finish line in the Tasmania Cup on March 13, Bullys Delight was stripped of the win following an independent inquiry, which began last week, and was finalised this afternoon.
After reviewing evidence and replays of the Cup, veteran steward Ray Murrihy determined the manner in which Rhys Nicholson “drove or behaved in the home straight in the race involved deliberate and egregious violations of the rules, being so far outside of what is permitted for the conduct of harness racing that they would be viewed as an affront by any fair-minded person.”
As such the appointed steward invoked AHRR174 to determine Bullys Delight be given a lower placing in the race…meaning the son of Bettors Delight was relegated from first to last.
Along with Nicholson’s incorrect whip action Murrihy noted he “dropped his right foot from the sulky stirrup and contacted the offside hind leg of Bullys Delight on numerous occasions” along the home straight.
A protest against the winner was lodged by the placegetters on the night, with stewards dismissing the objection while stating “although stewards were able to confirm that Nicholson had indeed ‘hocked’ Bullys Delight numerous times in the home straight as well as utilising his whip on numerous occasions outside the requirement of the rules, stewards could not be comfortably satisfied that had this not occurred the placings would have changed.”
Nicholson was fined $1500 and suspended for six weeks.
With Murrihy overturning the stewards’ decision, trainer John Nicholson declared the case is “far from over”.
“It’s ridiculous the way the entire inquiry has been handled, including having one person make a decision instead of a consensus from a panel,” John said.
“This is far from over and we won’t be resting until we exhaust every avenue, which begins with lodging an appeal with Tasracing.
“Rhys did the wrong thing and has copped his whack, but now the trainer and the owners, who are two of the nicest blokes you’ll ever meet, are now being punished.
“We’ll end up in court if we have to.”
John has no doubts the result of the Murrihy inquiry will have a ‘butterfly effect’ on racing throughout the nation.
“This has opened a big can of worms!” John said. “Not just for us, but for the whole industry Australia-wide.
“It’s set a precedent about taking wins away from horses because of a driver, which, for example, will have to include any driver who breaks the whip rules to win by a small margin.
“If you’ve broken the rules to allegedly gain an advantage, then you can’t keep the race!
“If any owner or trainer is ever in the position of losing a race, and having their appeal dismissed, after a driver strays outside the rules, they’ll be entitled to an inquiry…it shouldn’t make any difference if it is in a race like a Cup or a country race in the middle of nowhere…the precedent has been set!”