Life ban in NZ as jockey pleads guilty over plan to engineer mid-race fall

Horse Racing Brandon Morgenrood jockey
Brandon Morgenrood: South African jockey has been handed a life ban in New Zealand

By Nicholas Godfrey

New Zealand: South African jockey Brandon Morgenrood has been handed a life ban over charges relating to conspiracy to harm fellow jockey, his ex-partner Tina Comignaghi, during a race in February.

According to several reports, 42-year-old Morgenrood, pleaded guilty to three charges in relation to planning an attempt to cause a fall to Comignaghi during a race at Riccarton Park in Christchurch on February 21.

The former Cape jockey was stood down by the stewards before racing on the day in question amid safety concerns after what was described as a “heated discussion” in the female jockeys’ room.

In handing down their judgement after an inquiry, the stewards of New Zealand’s Judicial Control Authority for Racing issued a lengthy written decision in which they stated that “such calculated, premeditated and intentional offending has no place in racing.”

Read the full written decision from the NZ Judicial Control Authority

The report added: “In our considered view, no penalty short of a Lifetime period of Disqualification would be appropriate.” 

The specific charges laid against Morgenrood were as follows:

On 21 February 2020 threatened to cause Class A Jockey Miss Tina Comignaghi to fall in Race 4 at the Canterbury Jockey Club meeting at Riccarton on 21 February 2020 in breach of Rule 801(1)(s)(i) of the New Zealand Rules of Thoroughbred Racing.

Between 11 and 18 February 2020 did an act that caused undue suffering to the horse VIVACE LADY by pulling on its mouth unnecessarily while riding the said horse in track work which resulted in the said horse suffering cuts and abrasions to the inside of its mouth in breach of Rule 801(1)(p) of the New Zealand Rules of Thoroughbred Racing.

On 18 February 2020 counselled Jockey Brett Murray to commit a Serious Racing Offence by encouraging the said Jockey to ride in a manner that would assist him to cause Jockey Tina Comignaghi to fall in Race 4 at the Canterbury Jockey Club meeting on 21 February 2020 being an offence under Rule 801(1)(w) of the New Zealand Rules of Thoroughbred Racing.

Stewards were also told that Morgenrood had sent inappropriate messages to Comignaghi after their relationship ended in December 2019. Morgenrood threatened his ex-partner on February 9, sending a text saying: “I’m gonna f**k u over big time!”

Ahead of a scheduled trial before racing on February 21, Morgenrood entered the female jockeys’ room where, according to the stewards, a “heated discussion” took place.

Comignaghi told Morgenrood to “drop it, drop it” and to leave the room, to which Morgenrood replied, “the only thing that’s going to drop is you in the race”.

The exchange was witnessed by another jockey, who reported it to raceday stewards, resulting in Morgenrood’s being stood down amid safety concerns before the investigation that resulted in last week’s inquiry.

According to the Sporting Post, Morgenrood had left South Africa for New Zealand in May 2016 “in search of a fresh start and better opportunities for his young family”. After being employed as a work rider, he gained jockey’s licence in August 2017.

He had previously been issued a life ban for race-fixing in South Africa before the penalty was reduced to five years on appeal.

• More South African racing news at the Sporting Post

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