Monday 23 October 2017

HRI's grant 'puts things into context'

Brian Kavanagh
Brian Kavanagh

Johnny Ward

The HRI board and chairman Joe Keeling meet the Agriculture Committee today over CEO Brian Kavanagh's controversial reappointment, with members told yesterday that Tuesday's record budget bonanza put "everything else into context".

Eimear Mulhern, daughter of the late Charles Haughey, is the thoroughbred breeders' nominee on the board.

She emailed members on the back of the Department of Agriculture's announcement of a record €64m grant to the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund.

The email read: "Hi Brian... Sincerest congratulations to Joe, you and to all who played a part in securing this funding... It's great news and puts everything else into context."

It is understood that the three designated speakers before the Agriculture Committee are the Turf Club's John Powell, racecourses nominee John Moloney and Meta Osborne, who was part of the HRI's remuneration committee.

The purpose of that sub-committee is "to examine all issues in relation to the contract of employment of the chief executive".

It was shown to have added an interim member to its meetings this year without any consultation with the HRI board.

HRI chairman Keeling, whose position is unpaid, will face questions regarding his lobbying of the department unknown to the board since late 2014. It is understood that other board members may also speak.

The affair seems to have caused difficulties for the relationship between HRI and the Department of Agriculture. The Department's press release on the budget on Tuesday, when the sport was promised a historically high grant, made no reference whatever to horseracing.

Yesterday, Independent TD Clare Daly asked Agriculture Minister Michael Creed if there had been communication between HRI and his department on September 27 when a HRI statement backed Keeling after a board EGM.

Creed said it was "not discussed with me or with my officials" until after the board's approval of its press release.

Both Kevin Sexton and Danny Grant will likely face the Turf Club on November 7 over failed drug tests earlier this year. Veteran rider Grant, who has a serious skin condition, previously tested positive for a metabolite of cocaine in 2014, arguing he had taken cocaine herbal tea to help treat his condition.


Gordon Elliott, meanwhile, enjoyed a four-timer at Punchestown yesterday. A €1 bet on Zanjabeel, Fire In His Eyes, Baby Twig and Cecil Corbett would have returned €454. He may have had a five-timer but General Principle was withdrawn shortly before the finale, prompting a fine for Elliott that left him visibly livid.

There was good news last night for Davy Russell, who faces a 17-day ban arising from his conduct before the Turf Club stewards at a Clonmel meeting earlier this month. Russell left the track despite still having two mounts left, forcing the Turf Club to call him in for a referral yesterday.

Russell was fined €1,000 for leaving the track but suffered no further ban. His suspension commences today.

The Tipperary Crystal Curragh Racing Awards were held last evening. Kevin Prendergast and Shane Foley were awarded the leading training and riding performances of the year respectively.

Irish Independent

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