Today (14 April) the BHA licensing committee met to consider Mark’s interim suspension. A private directions hearing, which sets out the parameters of the disciplinary panel hearing, also took place. A BHA spokesman said during the course of today’s hearings, “it became clear that there was common ground” between the two parties and an “agreed basis of plea” was put before the panel and “they agreed that it was suitable”.
On 16 February Mark was given an interim suspension awaiting a hearing to consider whether he had breached a rule by engaging in “conduct prejudicial to the good reputation of horseracing” by striking a horse with a tree branch on 29 August 2020.
As Mark “accepted” being in breach of the rule, he was given a four-month suspension, with two months of that deferred for two months.
Following the hearing Mark told H&H he was “really looking forward to putting this all behind him”.
“It’s been a very tough two months, particularly on my family and myself. I would also like to express huge thanks to my family and my staff, and especially the owners who have supported me and stayed with me through all this, and also to the many people who have sent messages and letters of support throughout the period,” he said.
“I am looking forward to doing what I enjoy doing best, caring for horses and getting out there and winning more races.”
The BHA spokesman said the licensing committee agreed with the immediate return of Sir Mark’s licence “due in large part to the fact that the BHA was satisfied that this case posed no ongoing equine welfare concerns.”
“An inspection of his yard on February 17 found his training facilities to be well maintained and horses in good condition,” said the spokesman.
Brian Barker, who chaired the disciplinary panel, said in the view of the panel the actions of Sir Mark “could not be condoned in any form”.
“His prominence and achievement have set a high bar of behaviour. We note the original and immediate apology, which included that Sir Mark was ‘very disappointed in himself’,” said Mr Barker.
“The entry penalty for a breach of Rule (J)19 is a fine of £2,000 or suspension/withdrawal/disqualification for a period of three months – the range is a fine of £1,000 to £15,000 or suspension/withdrawal/disqualification of one month to three years.
“Bearing all that in mind, the panel decided that Sir Mark should be sentenced in this way; the appropriate sentence is one of four months suspension, with two months of that deferred for two months. That means that the eight weeks he has already served is sufficient and Sir Mark is able to operate under his licence immediately. Further, provided that there are no transgressions in the next two months, until 14 June, then that deferment will disappear.”
The BHA spokesman said: “We are grateful to the disciplinary panel for their time in considering this case and acknowledge the penalty handed down this afternoon. As Sir Mark has himself recognised in public statements since the video emerged and in accepting that he was in breach of rule (J)19, his behaviour on this occasion fell short of the standard expected of all licensed individuals and ran contrary to the values of care and respect for the horse that underpin British racing.”
In February Mark “wholeheartedly” apologised for his actions and stepped down from his role as World Horse Welfare patron.
“One of the main things I preach is about establishing a mutual respect between horse and rider and that patience and kindness is the best way to get results,” he said at the time. “I believe this is one of the main attributes along with a great empathy with animals that has enabled me to have a long and successful career in eventing. I am very disappointed in myself that I did not adhere to that in this case
The BHA spokesman said written reasons will follow in due course.
You might also be interested in:
Credit: Future owns
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.