Heathcote to fight misconduct charge

Multiple Group 1 winning trainer Rob Heathcote will engage a high-powered legal firm to launch an appeal after being found guilty of a misconduct charge which he insists arose out of a private post-race conversation with a jockey.

Heathcote does not deny saying “f… you’ to Mark Du Plessis in a heated debrief at Eagle Farm when the trainer claimed Du Plessis did not follow instructions to lead when Stuttering finished third as the $3.40 second favourite in a race on February 6.

But Heathcote is adamant no-one else on course heard his remarks which the trainer taped on his phone and sent to Stuttering’s owners.

Brisbane stewards only became aware of the matter when the 49-second audio clip of the exchange was circulated on social media.

Stewards last Saturday convened an inquiry and found Heathcote guilty of a misconduct charge stating he “did misconduct himself after the running of Race 9 by way of inappropriate language directed to jockey M Du Plessis.”

Heathcote was fined $500, half of which was suspended, after being found guilty of the charge which falls under the category of conduct detrimental to the interests of racing.

It could become an interesting test case for the racing industry with Heathcote to lodge an appeal.

He is determined to fight the matter on principal.

“I said ‘f you Mark.” Never at any other time did I swear,” Heathcote told Racenet.

“No-one was around me and I only recorded it for my owners.

“No-one except me and the jockey heard what I said at the time.

“It was just me and the jockey, the jockey hasn’t made a complaint.

“I said what I said on the day for the benefit of my owners so they could hear my response to the jockey and the jockey’s response to me.

“It was a private thing between me and the jockey.

“One of the owners posted it on social media and the stewards came up to me two weeks later.”

Mark Du Plessis. Pic: AAP.Source:AAP

Heathcote, who has won 11 Group 1s including seven with the champion Queensland sprinter Buffering, is engaging legal eagles to fight the matter.

He says he couldn’t care about being $250 out of pocket but wants to clear his name and says he should never have been charged over what he says was a private communication.

“An appeal is going to be lodged and I’m going to be represented by a law firm because there is no way I should have been charged,” Heathcote said.

“It was a private thing between myself and the jockey.

“Jockeys make mistakes – am I not entitled to point that mistake out to him?

“I’m taking this on – it’s not the money, I couldn’t care about the $250, it’s the principle.”

The vast majority of Australian trainers send post-race audio or video reports to owners, usually featuring an interview with the jockey, and the point Heathcote case could raise the spectre about whether some trainers may ask owners to sign nondisclosure agreements to receive post-race information.

The stewards’ report regarding the Heathcote inquiry initially indicated Heathcote had pleaded guilty to the charge – but Heathcote insists he didn’t.

He contacted stewards and the wording of the stewards’ report has now been changed.

Brisbane stewards are also understood to be investigating another local trainer after his remarks about a jockey on a post-race audio were sent to owners and circulated on social media.

Originally published asGroup 1 trainer to fight misconduct charge over verbal spray at jockey

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