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Quite a bit more detail in this report

Jockey Sam Weatherley cops 9-week suspension for reckless riding after death of Taiki Yanagida

 
27 Sep, 2022 06:00 PM6 mins to read
 
Top jockey Sam Weatherley, pictured in January 1, this year, has been suspended from riding for nine weeks after being found guilty of reckless riding. Photo / Trish Dunell

Top jockey Sam Weatherley, pictured in January 1, this year, has been suspended from riding for nine weeks after being found guilty of reckless riding. Photo / Trish Dunell

The actions of a top young jockey, which led to a promising Japanese rider's death at Cambridge, have been ruled "reckless".

But Sam Weatherley, 23, says it was a "freak accident" that he will continually struggle with for the rest of his life.

Taiki Yanagida died after injuries suffered in a fall at Cambridge Raceway last month after his horse, Te Atatu Pash, was bumped when Weatherley made an "abrupt" and "aggressive" turn with his horse, Jack Hammer.

Today, after a hearing by the Racing Integrity Board, Weatherley has been handed a nine-week racing suspension as result of his actions on the track.


 

CCTV footage shown to the board's panel at the Te Rapa Racecourse in Hamilton, shows how a fatal series of events played out in a matter of seconds during the last race of the day on August 3.

It shows a group of horses rounding the final bend at the 300 mark.

Up until then, Weatherley had trailed the leading horse, Searchlight, on the inside barrier.

 

Weatherley would later tell investigators at his initial hearing that he was looking for a "run" and then he's "just gone".

"I thought there was a run appearing out three wide and I've looked to come out for a run and obviously Darren Danis' mount has been going better than mine ... no disrespect to Darren but I thought that run would appear, just the nature of the way it happens."

However, as Weatherley attempts to make his "run", his horse made contact with the girth area of Danis' ride, Goodo Jo, which he says "overreacted quite badly".

"Unfortunately, it's just a freak accident and something that I've gotta live with for the rest of my life. It's very, very unfortunate," he said during his interview last month, which was adjourned to continue today.

Horse racing jockey Taiki Yanagida died after falling from his horse during a race at Cambridge in August. Photo / Trish Dunell Horse racing jockey Taiki Yanagida died after falling from his horse during a race at Cambridge in August. Photo / Trish Dunell

Footage of the race was shown multiple times to the adjudicative panel throughout the hearing. It showed Jack Hammer bumping into the girth of Goodo Jo whose hindlegs are then swung out to the right.


 

That caused Te Atatu Pash to appear to tap the ankle of Goodo Jo and fall forward, throwing Yanagida to the ground, where he was stomped on by a horse following close behind.

Neither horse nor its rider could have avoided the collision.

Yanagida was rushed to Waikato Hospital and his Japan-based family flew over to be by his side, but he died from injuries to his brain and spine.

The accident stunned and divided the racing industry, Weatherley's co-counsel Philip Cornege told the panel today.

"Half of the industry have been quite supportive .. the other half have frankly branded him a murderer and it's quite wrong."

He said those people felt that Weatherley returning to the saddle was him "thumbing his nose" at Yanagida's death.

 

"But he literally had to get back on the horse. Sitting at home trying to cope with what had happened was not good for his mental health."

Weatherley's remorse was genuine, he said, and he'd not only met with Yanagida's mother but also contributed to the funeral and a headstone for his grave in Japan.

Dennis Dow, counsel for the board, earlier submitted Weatherley's actions were reckless and called two of its stipendiary stewards, Brady Jones and Warwick Robinson, along with its chief steward John Oatham as witnesses.

Robinson told the adjudicators Warwick Gendall and Noel McCutcheon that Weatherley "used his horse as a battering ram", after pulling it to get into a space, or gap, neither of which he said existed.

"You say gap, I'm saying there isn't a gap," he bluntly told Weatherley's co-counsel Fletcher Pilditch.

Robinson, a former jockey and stipendiary steward of 25 years, told the panel from his viewing of the race footage, Weatherley suddenly "shoots out at least two and a half horses" to his right as he finishes negotiating the final bend.

 

He explained to have a "gap" wide enough to head into, it needed to "at least" fit the horse's shoulders.

"Even if you see that it's still a very narrow gap to negotiate a horse through ... I think Mr Weatherley is a very experienced rider and knows the only way he could get through there is to make a gap."

However, fellow retired jockey Michael Coleman, said he could see the gap Weatherley was aiming for.

"There's no doubt in my mind that there's a reason why Mr Weatherley has jumped out for that run, because there's a gap there."

He said everything happens in "microseconds" riding at that pace and although he could have corrected, Weatherley's "instincts have taken over" and he's continued to aim for the gap that he saw before it's closed on him.

"There has been a run fixed for Mr Weatherley to take and as a competitive rider you would also try to go for that run."

 

He, together with Weatherley's counsel, submitted his actions were careless, not reckless.

However, after 45 minutes of deliberations, the panel found Weatherley guilty.

Dow pushed for a three-month ban, which would include uplifts for his "poor" riding history involving 11 charges of careless riding and seven convictions in the past 12 months, and more going back to when he started in 2016.

Pilditch said Weatherley had already been subjected to trial by social media.

"We live in a very vitriolic age. We operate in a world of social media where people are tried and judged via social media and that's certainly been the case for Mr Weatherley and his family who have faced very divisive views ... about his involvement.

"He really has suffered and will continue to suffer quite a high level of antagonism and animosity from people in the industry who really aren't in a position to be making comment.

"Good ole New Zealand has already done a fair amount of crushing through social media," Pilditch said.

 

He urged the board to hand down a suspension which left him with a "sense of hope" for his future career.

While Weatherley had always accepted culpability for his actions, he felt they were careless rather than reckless.

However, it was pointed out that Weatherley had been subjected, and pleaded guilty to, a charge of careless riding earlier in the same meeting.

Panel chairman Warwick Gendall said there was "no question" that there was never any intent by Weatherley to purposefully cause the fall.

"No jockey intends that, ever," he said.

In delivering not only their verdict on the charge but also the penalty, Gendall and McCutcheon found Weatherley's horse made "very firm" contact with Goodo Jo, "when in no time correcting his line exhibiting reckless behaviour".

 

"And the actions establish that he acted in a deliberate manner," Gendall said.

Gendall acknowledged it had taken a toll on Weatherley's mental health but reminded him he had "a great future" and wished him well.

Weatherley declined to comment when approached outside by Open Justice.

Yanagida was the first jockey to die in a race fall in New Zealand since Rebecca Black at Gore in December, 2016.

 
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