Kavanagh set for Committee questioning
Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh is to meet the Agriculture Committee on Tuesday, March 7 arising from his controversial reappointment for a third term last year.
HRI's voluntary chairman Joe Keeling was among the board members to meet the committee last October, and there were subsequent cross-party calls for Kavanagh to do the same, to which he agreed - though he is not compelled to do so.
Kavanagh has generally made little comment regarding the circumstances behind his reappointment but he will also likely be grilled on a letter that the committee has received outlining that he will be stepping down at the end of this term in 2021. This is despite strong suggestions that he has a contract of indefinite duration.
Kavanagh may also have to take questions about the value for money the government - which committed a record €64m grant to the sport for this year - gets from its contribution.
The committee is chaired by Fine Gael's Pat Deering, who said: "There was a request at the time when we had Joe Keeling in to bring in Brian to review HRI's annual report - and basically to discuss where all the money is being spent.
"A substantial amount of money every year goes to racing and it is a logical follow-on from our meeting with chairman Keeling that time. Brian has attended a good few meetings previously with us.
"The committee got a letter from HRI signed by Brian Kavanagh - headed notepaper, dated October 24 - writing to me to confirm there would be no further contract at the end of this one and that his employment with HRI would cease at that time. 'As you know this was agreed and minuted at the HRI meeting on July 21,' the letter said.
"It was signed by Brian Kavanagh. However, we saw the minutes of the July 21 meeting and there was no mention of this."
Kavanagh can expect tough questions from TDs after strong statements from Independent Clare Daly recently in the Dáil, though she will not be at the sitting.
Kavanagh said: "I am looking forward to it and having the opportunity to discuss the issues facing the industry."
Sinn Féin has also criticised HRI, while Labour's Willie Penrose - who is training to be a Turf Club steward - will likely call Kavanagh up on his reappointment.
Meanwhile, there was bad news for Jonathan Burke in recent days. The rider, who has endured a frustrating couple of years between injuries and the end of the Alan Potts alliance, is set to miss the remainder of the season having torn tendons in his right shoulder in a fall at Navan on Sunday.
Agent Gary Cribbin said: "Jonathan went for an MRI with shoulder specialist Hannan Mullett in Santry (on Tuesday) and it has been confirmed he has torn tendons in his right shoulder.
"He will probably miss the remainder of the season and it is desperate hard luck for him, with the injuries he had in 2016.
"He'll go for surgery next week but is remaining amazingly upbeat, despite it being a big blow to him especially at this time of year when he would have had rides at Cheltenham next month."
Identity Thief is an unlikely participant at the Cheltenham Festival following a setback last weekend, but was left in the Racing Post Arkle and JLT Novices' Chase at yesterday's acceptance stage. Gigginstown has not completely ruled out Identity Thief going to the Festival, even though he has failed to complete either chase start.