Following the conclusion of a prior investigation into South Australian stablehand Mr Tommy Stokes, Racing Victoria Stewards subsequently received additional wagering information for the period prior to his employer, Trainer Mr Phillip Stokes, establishing a training facility in Victoria.
Accordingly, the Stewards conducted a further inquiry into Mr Tommy Stokes laying horses competing in Victorian races which were in the care of his employer while Mr Phillip Stokes was solely based in South Australia.
Mr Tommy Stokes was interviewed and was asked to explain his reasons and rationale for placing the bets. On the basis of that evidence, the Stewards found that Mr Tommy Stokes had placed the bets on the basis of form, and not on the basis of specific knowledge obtained as part of working in the stables.
The Stewards also reviewed the relevant races and determined that there were no identifiable integrity concerns with respect to the conduct of the races, including the performances of Mr Phillip Stokes’ horses. The Stewards also reviewed the betting on Mr Phillip Stokes’ horses in those races, and similarly determined there to be no integrity concerns.
Mr Tommy Stokes was charged under AR 227(a) in that he was negligent in not understanding his obligations under the Rules, notably AR237(2) which states the following:
A person employed by a trainer in connection with the training or care of horses must not lay any horse under the care, control or supervision of the trainer for whom the person is or was employed while employed and for a period of 21 days after ceasing to be employed.
The Particulars of the charge were:
- Between 14 October 2017 and 6 November 2018, Mr Tommy Stokes placed six lay bets on horses in the care of his employer, Mr Phillip Stokes.
- The six lay bets netted Mr Tommy Stokes a profit of $353.12, and related to the following Victorian races and Mr Phillip Stokes trained horses:
Mr Tommy Stokes was found guilty of the charge and was fined the sum of $2,000.
Although Mr Tommy Stokes was fined $1,500 earlier in the year for a similar offence, the earlier fine related to lay bets placed during the time that his employer, Mr Phillip Stokes, had established a training facility in Victoria. The horses the subject of that offence were based at Mr Phillip Stokes’ Victorian stables, whilst Mr Tommy Stokes was working in South Australia.
The Stewards have issued a higher fine for this breach because the prejudice to the industry and integrity risk was seen as being graver, given that Mr Tommy Stokes worked as a stablehand in the same South Australian stable that the horses were trained from. The Stewards found that Mr Tommy Stokes did not have an active involvement in the training and preparation of the above horses.
In light of the above, the Stewards considered issuing a higher penalty. However, on the basis of his personal circumstances, his financial circumstances, his good character, and his genuine ignorance and remorse, the Stewards determined that the penalty should be fixed at $2,000. Mr Tommy Stokes has closed his wagering accounts.