Communication – Lockdown Wake-Up Call

Are the various inquiries in limbo?

The advent of COVID-19 and its associated restraints and innovations have made communication a key driver in the ‘business as unusual’ environment in which we all find ourselves.

We have had the wake-up call that mediocrity won’t survive in the ‘new’ lean competitive environment that we will find ourselves in.

How will South African racing be adjusting – and wouldn’t this be  a great time for our National Horseracing Authority, as an example, to learn from better world practice, lockdown style?

The racing regulator has gone quiet since Thursday’s press release where they referred to livestock transport issues that needed clarification and advised that the CCC had not yet considered our application.

With the sands in our hour glass running out, it’s been almost five days and we hopefully will hear something soon.

While the weekly calendar of changes on the NHA website has not been updated since 26 March, we have had questions as to what has happened to the multiple inquiry matters in the pipeline? , Are they simply placed in a pending file, waiting for a reversion to normality?

The Mauritius stipes conducted an inquiry via video conference  last week and the BHA have been holding their own remote hearings.

It is not only the enthusiasm to keep the wheels turning but we have had an issue with a lack of detail and information transparency from the NHA for years.

BHA Approved silks

You be the judge – have a read of the report below following a recent BHA remote hearing and see if you can spot the difference with how we do it.

  1. On 23rd April 2020 a Remote Hearing of the independent Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) heard an inquiry into whether Briony Ewart had committed a breach of Rule (J)24.6 of the Rules of Racing (conduct obstructing the proper administration or control of racing) by ‘misleading or endeavouring to mislead a BHA official, regarding the circumstances in which she located a missing weight cloth.’ It was conducted by the Chairman of the Judicial Panel sitting alone under the emergency measures procedure
  2. There was no objection from either party to the constitution of the Panel. Mrs Ewart appeared in person and Charlotte Davison presented the case for the Authority. At the commencement of the hearing Mrs Ewart confirmed that she was in breach.


  1. Mrs. Ewart is registered as an Assistant trainer to Mr. James Ewart, a position she has held since 14 October 2004. On 17 February 2020, she took part in the saddling of BINGO D’OLIVATE (FR) prior to the running of The Introducing Racing TV Handicap Hurdle (Division II) at Carlisle. The horse, ridden by Brian Hughes, trained by Mr. Ewart, owned by The Craig Farm Syndicate, finished 1st of 7, winning by 12 lengths, at a starting price of 13/8f.
  2. Following the Race, Brian Hughes weighed in 5lb light (at 11st) and the Horse was disqualified. It became clear that when Mr. Hughes weighed in the weight cloth was missing. A number of people were involved in a search for the missing cloth. Within a short time, Mrs. Ewart came to have found the cloth and weight on a walkway, and handed them to Ms. Dingwall, the General Manager of the course.
  3. The ‘misleading or endeavouring to mislead a BHA Official’ took place in the course of the Stewards’ Enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the light weighing in. Called to give evidence were Mr Hughes, Mr. Ewart as trainer, Mrs. Ewart, Molly Dingwall, Lyndsay Allan the Raceday Assistant and Martin Wright the Clerk of the Scales.
  4. Ms. Allen and Mr. Hughes recounted how they had checked the Horse and the Winners’ Enclosure and were unable to find the weight cloth. Mrs. Ewart, who was in the winner’s enclosure when Mr. Hughes came out and told her the weight cloth was missing, stated she found the weight cloth, “Just on the walkway in”. She was asked exactly where and replied, “just where the horses were circling, just at the… under the rails, there. just to the side of the sand, just where basically the horses were circling just on the sand”.
  5. Ms. Dingwall explained that she went to check the walkway and spoke with the grounds team who had not seen the weight cloth. As she turned back around, Mrs. Ewart shouted that she had found it. Ms. Dingwall took it from Mrs. Ewart and brought it in to Mr. Hughes. Ms. Dingwall stated she had not herself seen it on the walkway. Once the weight cloth was found, Mr. Hughes weighed in at the correct weight of 11 stone 5 lb.
  6. Footage of the walkway was shown during the Enquiry; no one was able to identify where the weight cloth was said to have fallen off. Following this, Mrs. Ewart was asked by the Stewards, “Are you sure that you picked that weight cloth up?”, to which she replied, “Up on the side. Well it was on the grass sort of on further back, I think. Unless it’s been moved, would anyone have moved it”? Mrs. Ewart was asked if she had returned to the stables (following the Race) and she stated, “No because I handed the horse to, well Gemma (the Lass) was doing the horse”.
  7. The stewards concluded that both Mr. Hughes and Mr. Ewart had breached Rule (G)13: failure to draw the correct weight. The initial penalties were properly revised, after further consultation with Guide to Penalties and Procedures, to a three day suspension for Mr Hughes and a fine of £750 for Mr Ewart as the cause of the breach could not be established and a joint penalty is imposed
  8. Subsequently the BHA Disciplinary Team reviewed the Stewards Enquiry and received notice of an appeal on behalf of Mr. Hughes. A decision was then made that the circumstances surrounding the missing weight cloth needed to be fully investigated. The penalties given were stayed whilst the investigation took place.


  1. Tim Miller (Investigating Officer Team Leader) was appointed as the Investigating Officer. He obtained and reviewed all relevant CCTV from Carlisle Racecourse. The record did not show the horse actually being saddled inside the box; but it did shows Mr. Ewart going into the box with the saddle, where Mrs. Ewart was already present, and a few minutes later Mrs. Ewart leading the horse out of the box, having been saddled.
  2. Footage of the stables area shows that after the Race Mrs. Ewart ran back into the stables. She can be seen re-entering stable 17. Thirty seconds later the footage shows her leaving the stable carrying a horse blanket over her arm. It appears the blanket is covering something else, given the shape of the blanket. Ms Dingwall’s witness statement recorded that, whilst looking for the missing weight cloth, Mrs. Ewart called out to her while they were both on the horse walkway stating she had found the weight cloth. Ms. Dingwall turned back and saw Mrs. Ewart, already holding the weight cloth in her hand, and noted she was also carrying a rug or jacket, or something similar, over her arm. She took it from Mrs. Ewart and returned it to the weighing room.
  3. On 26 February 2020, BHA Investigating Officers interviewed Mrs. Ewart. She was told that she was entitled to legal representation and could pause the interview at any stage for any reason, including to seek legal advice. The interview was recorded. She explained the procedure they undertook in the stable and initially maintained the version of events she had given to the Stewards. Mrs. Ewart provided the Investigating Officers with photographs of the area in which she claimed she found the weight cloth. She stated that after finding the weight cloth and handing it to Molly Dingwall, she returned to the stables to inform the travelling head lass that it had been found and whilst there, she collected an additional rug for the horse to ensure the horse did not get cold.
  4. Her explanation for needing the rug and her suggested timing were challenged and she was shown the CCTV of her entering the stables within five minutes of the finish. She denied that it appeared that something was hidden under the rug on leaving and continued to maintain her account. One hour into the interview, after further discussions, Mrs Ewart requested a break.

15.A short time later, having stated she had spoken to her husband, Mrs. Ewart returned and immediately explained to the Officers that she had indeed gone back to the stable, found the weight cloth and panicked. She was described as very emotional at this point; and was given further time before the interview resumed. Mrs. Ewart began by apologising to the Officers and the BHA for wasting their time and money, admitting concealing the weight cloth, putting it on the course, and that she had lied to the Stewards. She described a “complete rush of blood to the head”, when the problem was revealed, the Horse being a very hard horse to win with.

  1. Mrs. Ewart confirmed that the events she had described occurring before the race were accurate, and that she was unaware that the weight cloth had not been put on the horse. She described this failure as “a stupid, stupid mistake”. Her first knowledge was when Mr. Hughes and her husband came out of the weighing room looking for it, at which point she described being shocked and confused.
  2. After initially looking around the horse, she said she felt that she needed to check the stables to see if it had been placed on the horse in the first place. She stated she did not tell anyone where she was going and returned directly to the stables where she found the weight cloth laying on top of a rug inside the stable.
  3. She stated she did not know what to do and called both Mr. Ewart and Mr Hughes. (her phone, on examination, which showed a 4 and 6 second call to Mr. Ewart and Mr. Hughes, timed at 17:13 and 17:14). Mrs. Ewart stated her intention had been to let them know she had found it and to ask what to do. As neither answered she panicked, covered up the weight cloth and returned to the course, following a call from Mr. Ewart telling her to return. She stated she did not tell her husband that she had found the weight cloth.
  4. Mrs. Ewart explained that she placed the weight cloth on the grass and then pretended to have just found it, calling out to Molly Dingwall who then collected the weight cloth and returned it to the weighing room. She had realised that a mistake that had been made in not putting the weight cloth on the Horse prior to the Race, and knew the consequences for Mr. Hughes losing the race in his attempt to win the jockeys title. In addition, she knew the consequences for her husband in losing the race, and for the owners who had been very patient with what was a difficult horse. Her actions were trying to put things right.
  5. Mrs. Ewart said this was the first time she had told the truth about the incident. She was extremely sorry for wasting the BHA’s time and for not being honest with the BHA and her husband and again became very emotional. She stated she had not been able to sleep with the worry and anxiety as she knew she had done something wrong and that she had been taught from a young age to be honest and own up if you had made a mistake or done something wrong.
  6. Following the interview, Mr Ewart was seen. He did not know anything about the true chain of events until his wife told him during the break in her interview. He still could not believe he had not put the weight cloth on, given he has saddled horses for the majority of his life, but accepted that given the admission of his wife, he must have forgotten to put the weight cloth on BINGO D’OLIVATE. He stated if he had known they had made a mistake he would have notified the Stewards immediately, and he would not have spent many hours phoning around trying to obtain additional footage to show the weight cloth falling off after the race. He was angry at himself for failing to put the weight cloth on, angry and frustrated with his wife for failing to be honest at the time and frustrated and disappointed that they would be losing the race, not only for their own sake but also for the sake of the owners and the jockey. He said he was also sorry for this incident causing the BHA to spend time and resource investigating this matter.
  7. Subsequently, the stayed suspension on Mr Hughes was quashed and in a FastTrack Hearing Mr Ewart accepted a £1500 fine.

The BHA’s Case:

  1. By her actions after the race, Mrs Ewart breached Rule(J)24.6 which states:

A Person must not mislead or attempt to mislead the BHA, the Stewards or one of its employees of BHA Officials.

  1. In particular, she mislead the Stewards at Carlisle Racecourse as to the events and circumstances surrounding her locating the weight cloth which had not been placed on the Horse as required. Mrs. Ewart lied to the Stewards when she told them she found the weight cloth on or by the walkway, after the Race had concluded, when in fact the weight cloth had not left stable box number 17.
  2. Aggravating features pointed to were that the behaviour was more than a single lie and that the false position was upheld for the first hour of the interview over a week later. Mitigating features were that the act was an oversight with significant consequences, and that eventually Mrs Ewart faced reality and gave a full explanation of her actions and subsequent mental turmoil. It was submitted that any term of suspension or ineligibility was inappropriate in this case.

Mrs. Ewart’s Subsequent Position:

  1. In a letter to the Panel 4th April 2020, Mrs Ewart underlined that her actions were an escalation into sheer panic after an innocent mistake. She accepted that she had no excuse but by way of explanation, she assumed that the Enquiry would not involve her and that the Horse would just be automatically disqualified. Once inside she was effectively overwhelmed by the situation she was in and the potential consequences. In panic she went into ‘some sort of denial.’ To win after considerable problems was ‘a huge deal’ and to have that thrown away by a stupid error felt like ‘an unbelievable nightmare.’
  2. She had dedicated her life to the industry and also enjoyed jockey coaching local children. She held her reputation and that of the stables in the highest regard and her actions had caused her considerable anxiety and stress. She offered sincere apologies and noted the understanding and assistance that the BHA had given her.
  3. In her additional written comments to the Panel in April she emphasised the disappointment she had in herself and the stupidity of her actions, and apologised to all those she had let down


  1. Although the race and glory had gone, any attempt in deceiving the Stewards conducting their proper investigation was a grave matter and goes to the integrity of the sport. Evidently the explanation to avoid embarrassment gained a life of its own, but there is no excuse for what was done and said. This is all accepted by Mrs Ewart and her panic and actions in the lowering of her standards have led, at the least, to personal and family anguish.
  2. In the unusual circumstances of both this case and current times, the remorse shown and the fact that Mr Ewart has also had to accept a penalty, I have concluded that I can take a lenient view and depart downwards from the entry point. The appropriate marking of this breach will be a fine of £1500 to be paid within six months.

Now that’s detail!

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