Racing Victoria Stewards on Saturday interviewed licensed jockey Mark Zahra after having received information that he may have also been in attendance at the Airbnb in Mornington on Wednesday, 25 August 2021 which resulted in four other licensed jockeys pleading guilty to a breach of the Rules.
Mark Zahra pleaded guilty to breaching AR 232(b) which reads as follows:
AR 232 Failure to observe processes and directions of PRAs or Stewards
(b) fail or refuse to comply with an order, direction or requirement of the Stewards or an official
The particulars of the charge are summarised as follows:
On 25 August 2021, Mark Zahra was present at an “Airbnb” in Mornington after 9pm with three other licensed jockeys, one apprentice jockey and two other non-licensed individuals.
This conduct is in breach of the current State Government Regulations (namely the Stay at Home Directions) which prohibit private gatherings for persons not otherwise living with one another. The conduct is also in breach of the imposed curfew for Metropolitan Melbourne.
Racing Victoria’s COVID Protocols state that any failure to comply with State Government Regulations will be deemed to be a failure or refusal to comply with an order, direction, or requirement of the Stewards or an official.
Stewards heard submissions on penalty and after doing so took into consideration his guilty plea, his personal circumstances, that this was his first offence of this nature, that any suspension this time of year includes missing feature race meetings, and that the individual expressed remorse.
The Stewards also took into consideration the serious nature of the offending, the potential severe ramifications that could flow from a breach of Racing Victoria’s COVID-19 Protocols, and that the penalty must be sufficient enough to deter others from breaching the COVID-19 Protocols. The penalty must also be seen to publicly address the seriousness of the offending and make clear that compliance with the COVID-19 Protocols is non-negotiable.
Taking into account the above considerations, the Stewards have determined that Mark Zahra will have his licence to ride in races suspended for a period of three months.
The suspension begins at midnight on 28 August 2021 and will expire at midnight on 27 November 2021.
In addition, Mark Zahra was notified of his requirement to fulfil the recommendations of Racing Victoria’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) which includes a stand down order of 14 days (beginning today) from all licensed premises and that negative COVID-19 tests must be provided over that period.
Mark Zahra will be permitted to participate in trackwork, jump-outs and official trials once the 14 day stand down order from the CMO concludes on 11 September 2021.
Mark Zahra was advised of his rights of appeal which must be lodged with the Victorian Racing Tribunal within three days.
Given that the Stewards were unaware until late today that Mark Zahra was also in attendance at the Airbnb in Mornington on 25 August 2021, the Stewards will give consideration to the evidence tendered by all five jockeys in relation to the inquiry.