Williamson suspended


Invercargill trainer-driver Nathan Williamson was surprised by a four-day suspension for alleged excessive use of the whip on Thursday’s Winton feature pace winner Tas Man Bromac.

Williamson defended the charge, but stipendiary stewards found he had hit $2.70 second favourite Tas Man Bromac, who beat favourite Crime Scene by a neck, over 10 times inside the last 400m and banned him from driving until September 28.

Williamson, who has driven 682 winners since 2006, said on Friday that “in my opinion the horse was not hit hard with the whip’’.

“I held the reins and the whip and never crossed the reins. The issue was with the continuous nature of the urging. Most of my strikes were more urges, rather than heavy strikes with the whip. That’s why I defended it.

“I turned the stick (when leading) at the top of the straight and removed the earplugs.

“I did flick the horse three or four times on the rump with the whip. The horse was giving his best and I felt if I kept urging him he would maintain his momentum and hold the other horse, and he did.

“But the stewards saw it a bit differently.’’

He says the 10-strikes rule should be more flexible.

“Personally, I think it’s very difficult to put a rule down that works in all situations. There are some drivers who are going to be hard done by.

“I feel the stewards are sensible and accurate in their decisions, but there needs to be discretion in some circumstances.

“Excessive use of the whip means that the horse has copped a beating and that’s how animal welfare people would look at it.

“I think that every racegoer and every animal welfare person who looked at that race yesterday wouldn’t think that my actions were over-the-top at all.

“The issue was with the continuous nature of the urging. If I am striking the horse with the whip I agree that I’ve got to break the action up. I’ve seen people hit, hit, hit and not break it up.

“Yes I hit the horse three or four times with the stick but then I’ve continued to urge the horse. But the perception of it was different.

“The main issue I have is with the 10-hit rule … I struck a horse 11 times at Roxburgh last season and flicked a horse at Oamaru free of the reins … this (suspension) is a follow-on from there.

“The issue I’ve got is that this is a completely different whipping offence and to culminate in a four-day suspension is a huge blow.

“It’s a lot different [financially] for a driver who gets eight or nine drives a meeting and that needs to be reviewed … it’s very frustrating but at the end of the day I’m a big boy and I just have to cop it.

“It’s a tricky one and as a driver who is out there quite a bit, I didn’t feel like I broke any rules.

“There wasn’t a mark on him at all. I feel that is important.

“It is a tricky rule for everyone.’’

He said runner-up Crime Scene would definitely have got past him.

“I definitely feel the horse wouldn’t have won if I had stopped driving him the way I did.

‘’What I should have done perhaps is cross the reins, use the whip through the tail and given him a couple of strikes with the whip, and then certainly I wouldn’t have been done (charged).

“I was mindful of the 10-strike rule and the horse doesn’t really respond to heavy striking with the whip.

“When I got to the line I didn’t feel like I’d hit him but more just kept him going.

“I thought I’d just driven him out.

“I was shocked when I was called in (by the stewards). I thought it might have been for using the whip outside the confines of the sulky. Four days was on the nose a bit.’’

Tas Man Bromac (10 wins) is now being set for the $25,000 Hannon Memorial (2600m) at Oamaru on September 24, a race that the Oamaru-based Williamson clan have never won.

“It’s our local cup and the Hannon has always been a race I wanted to have a runner in.

‘’It would be disappointing if I couldn’t drive in it but there’s plenty of good drivers around to fill in.

“He will race really well against better company. He can step and follow speed. If he’s following along he will still round it off.

“With the (two) runs under the belt he’s come on a lot and as a six-year-old will probably continue to improve with more racing.’’

They may make a late nomination for the NZ Cup, depending on his display in the Hannon.

“He’s a brilliant stand-start horse and has placed in Group One company. He’s come through yesterday’s race as good as he’s come through anything before. We were rapt with his win.’’