‘Road rage’ horsebox driver Nigel Wakefield given four-month ban from racecourses

Chelmsford City Racecourse in Essex holds all-weather flat racing fixtures

A horsebox driver has been banned from British racecourses after admitting knocking over a track official in a “road rage” incident.

Nigel Wakefield, head travelling lad for trainer Mick Appleby, was at the wheel of a vehicle carrying two horses.

The incident happened as staff were directing traffic outside Chelmsford City Racecourse in 2017.

A disciplinary panel heard it was part of a pattern of “aggressive and disrespectful” behaviour.

Wakefield was excluded from racecourses for a month last year and was later abusive to officials at Nottingham Racecourse.

At an independent panel hearing on Thursday, he admitted two counts of breaching the rules of racing with conduct which was prejudicial to the sport.

He was disqualified from attending race meetings for four months, two months of which are suspended for three months, although he can continue working at Appleby’s yard in Rutland, Leicestershire.

Panel chairman Patrick O’Mahony said the evidence pointed to “belligerent, wholly unacceptable and disrespectful behaviour”.

Character references, including one from Appleby, indicated he was highly regarded by those who worked with him.

Wakefield said he had learned a friend had terminal cancer on the day the Chelmsford incident happened.

Oliver Harland, representing the British Horseracing Authority, said the row on 2 September 2017 was captured on CCTV. It is not thought there were any serious injuries.

“Mr Wakefield drove his horse box into people who were directing traffic outside Chelmsford City Racecourse. They had valid authority to do that. He then failed to stop, having knocked someone over,” said Harland.

He said Wakefield repeatedly refused to co-operate with the BHA inquiry, and swore at an investigating officer, before eventually admitting to “road rage” at Chelmsford.

Wakefield had twice been formally warned by the BHA about his conduct in January and August 2018 and in October 2020 was in trouble again – calling staff at Nottingham Racecourse “amateurs” over Covid-19 protocols.

At a stewards’ inquiry the panel was told that he said: “There are two things in this world I don’t like. One is a thief, which I can cope with. And the second is a liar. I’ve got two facing me.”

Adam Flacks, representing Wakefield, said he intended to attend an anger management course.

“Mr Wakefield is committed to addressing his behaviour. He is not the person portrayed by the BHA or a person that causes trouble wherever he goes,” said Flacks.

He said a ban would jeopardise his job, and Wakefield told the panel he was the only employee at Appleby’s yard qualified to drive the bigger of its two horseboxes.

Wakefield had earlier been given “a significant fine” after pleading guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court to driving without due care and attention and common assault.

The BHA was unaware of the case until 2019, when it decided to take a “pastoral approach” in encouraging him to improve his behaviour.

“That approach simply did not work,” said Harland.

He added: “There’s no excuse for running someone over or telling several people effectively where to go for doing their jobs.”

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