VIC – VRT Hearing – Joe Bajada

09 September 2020
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On 7 September 2020, the Victorian Racing Tribunal (VRT) considered eight charges issued against licensed trainer Joe Bajada under Australian Harness Racing Rules (AHRR) 193(1), 187(6), 187(2), 196C(1)(b) and 190B.

Charge 1, under AHRR 193(1) which states:

A person shall not attempt to stomach tube or stomach tube a horse nominated for a race or event within 48 hours of the commencement of the race or event.

The particulars of Charge 1 were that on 20 June 2020, Mr Bajada attempted to stomach tube the horse ‘Upanatom NZ’ which was engaged to race at the Tabcorp Park Melton harness racing meeting that evening.

Charge 2, under AHRR 187(6) which states:

A person shall not frustrate or endeavour to frustrate an inquiry or investigation.

The particulars of Charge 2 were that on 20 June 2020, when being questioned by HRV Stewards at his registered training address, Mr Bajada deliberately kicked over a bucket containing a funnel, a large plastic spoon and a liquid, resulting in the contents spilling.

Charges 3, 4 and 5, under AHRR 187(2) which states:

A person shall not refuse to answer questions or to produce a horse, document, substance or piece of equipment, or give false or misleading evidence or information at an inquiry or investigation.

The particulars of Charge 3 were that Mr Bajada, after being observed by HRV Stewards attempting to stomach tube ‘Upanatom NZ’, gave evidence to HRV Stewards that the horse was not ‘Upanatom NZ’, which was evidence he knew to be false.

The particulars of Charge 4 were that Mr Bajada, after being observed by HRV Stewards attempting to stomach tube ‘Upanatom NZ’, gave evidence to HRV Stewards that he had no intention of administering any substance to ‘Upanatom NZ’ via the stomach tube, which was evidence he knew to be false.

The particulars of Charge 5 were that Mr Bajada, after being observed by HRV Stewards attempting to stomach tube ‘Upanatom NZ’, gave evidence to HRV Stewards that the liquid contained in a nearby bucket was water, soap and horse manure and was being used for the purpose of cleaning ‘Upanatom NZ’, which was evidence he knew to be false. Subsequent analysis of the liquid within the bucket showed the presence of alkalinising agents.

Charges 6 and 7, under AHRR 196C(1)(c) which states:

196C. (1) A person must not administer an alkalinising agent in any manner to a horse which is engaged to run in a race: (b) at any time within one (1) clear day of the commencement of the race.

The particulars of Charge 6 were that when questioned by HRV Stewards on 20 June 2020, Mr Bajada gave evidence that he administered 30 grams of sodium bicarbonate to ‘Upanatom NZ’ via its feed on 11 June 2020 and by doing so he had administered an alkalinising agent to ‘Upanatom NZ’ within one clear day of its engagement at Tabcorp Park Melton on 12 June 2020.

The particulars of Charge 7 were that when questioned by HRV Stewards on 20 June 2020, Mr Bajada gave evidence that he administered 30 grams of sodium bicarbonate to ‘Upanatom NZ’ via its feed on 19 June 2020 and by doing so he had administered an alkalinising agent to ‘Upanatom NZ’ within one clear day of its engagement at Tabcorp Park Melton on 20 June 2020.

Mr Bajada was also charged with a breach of AHRR 190B(1) being that he failed to keep and maintain a log book in accordance with the rules.

Mr Bajada pleaded not guilty to all charges.  On hearing Mr Bajada’s evidence in relation to Charge 8, the Tribunal took his evidence as a guilty plea in relation to that charge.

The VRT considered submissions from the HRV Stewards and Rob O’Connell, on behalf of Mr Bajada, and also viewed HRV Stewards bodycam footage from the stable inspection on 20 June 2020.

The VRT found Mr Bajada guilty of all charges.

Penalty

Charge 1: AHRR 193(1) – 2 years disqualification.

Charge 2: AHRR 187(6) – 1-year disqualification, cumulative to the disqualification on Charge 1.

Charge 3: AHRR 187(2) – $100 fine

Charge 4: AHRR 187(2) – $700 fine

Charge 5: AHRR 187(2) – $700 fine

Charge 6: AHRR 196C – $2,250 fine

Charge 7: AHRR 196C – $2,250 fine

Charge 8: AHRR 190B – $350 fine

Total Penalty: 3 years disqualification and $6350 fine

The disqualification was deemed to commence on 20 June 2020, the date on which Mr Bajada’s trainers licence was initially suspended by HRV Stewards in accordance with AHRR 183(d).

The VRT also ordered that, under AHRR 196C(3), ‘Upanatom NZ’ be disqualified from Race 5 at Tabcorp Park Melton on 12 June 2020 and that the placings be amended accordingly. Further to that, the VRT ordered that under AHRR 200(1) any prizemoney won by ‘Upanatom NZ’ from the race be refunded to HRV.

VRT Panel: Judge John Bowman (Chairman) and Judge Graeme Hicks.

The written decisions of the VRT can be found here.

(Please note that VRT Decisions will generally be published within 7-10 days of the date of hearing)