Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 24 May 2018

O'Connell banned, more laying cases on the way

Jockey Eddie O'Connell
Jockey Eddie O'Connell
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

TURF CLUB chief executive Denis Egan says that there are two more separate cases pending in relation to the illicit laying of horses on betting exchanges following the regulator's decision to suspend jockey Eddie O'Connell for four years over his role in the Yachvili investigation.

O'Connell was found guilty in relation to two sections of rule 273 and rule 212.

Rule 273 (vi & viii) respectively states that an individual may not "deter or prevent or conspire or attempt to deter or prevent a horse from winning a race or from running to its maximum ability", or "engage in any corrupt or fraudulent practice in relation to racing in Ireland or elsewhere".

Rule 212 states that "the rider of every horse shall take all reasonable and permissible measures throughout the race to ensure that his horse is given a full opportunity to win or of obtaining the best possible place."

GUILTY

O'Connell is the first licenced individual to be found guilty in relation to illicit betting exchange activity by the Turf Club.

The 25-year-old rider, who is expected to appeal the finding, pulled up the James Lambe-trained Yachvili at Downpatrick in September 2011, and the Turf Club was subsequently made aware of irregular betting patterns by Betfair, which reported a £10,000 bet had been laid on Yachvili to not finish in the first three.

The online firm deemed the amount, which was placed by two UK-based individuals and yielded winnings of £2,000, was substantially larger than the sums previously traded by the same individuals.

O'Connell and Lambe failed in a bid to get an injunction to prevent a Turf Club hearing into the case in September, and then launched a High Court challenge to the Turf Club's authority to enforce the rules of racing.

In February, the Turf Club revealed that Lambe had been exonerated of all charges relating to the inquiry, and the High Court found in favour of the Turf Club in April.

Egan said yesterday that both O'Connell and Lambe "have appealed the High Court's decision to the Supreme Court".

He suggested that the full findings in relation to the Turf Club's inquiry into the Yachvili case, which could run to "18 or 19 pages", might be published this week.

"There are three people who were not at the hearing who I want to make aware of decisions that were taken in relation to them before we publish anything," added Egan.

"They never showed up at any stage but out of courtesy I would prefer if they found out from me."

Egan confirmed that there are two other separate cases pending in relation to corrupt laying of horses, but described them as "not significant".

"One of those people may be licenced but the other isn't," he added, "and we are talking small amounts. They are relatively minor cases."

The Turf Club, which is funded by Horse Racing Ireland, saw its integrity budget plummet by 23pc over five years to €5.9m.

It received a cash boost of €167,000 for 2014 that was ring-fenced specifically for equine forensic testing equipment, and Egan went on to state that "the two main threats to the integrity of racing are corruption and anabolic steroids".

After it emerged that trainers Philip Fenton and Pat Hughes face charges that have been brought by the Department of Agriculture in relation to possession of steroids, Egan unveiled extensive plans to increase testing procedures from January 2015, including that the Turf Club would have access to all horses for sampling.

Currently, they only have access to horses on licenced premises.

"When budget time comes around we will have a requirement in the budget for extra funding specifically to deal with the whole threat on anabolic steroids and corruption," he confirmed.

OVERHAUL

John Hughes, a retired Department of Agriculture veterinary inspector, had a separate case against him for possession of unauthorised remedies, including the anabolic steroid nitrotain, "dismissed on its merits" by Carlow District Court in December.

Egan said that a Turf Club investigation into his activities "is ongoing".

"The Department of Agriculture have provided us with information which we are working on," he said of the Turf Club's investigation into the John Hughes case.

"In the last six weeks alone I would say we have carried out over 15 joint-inspections in trainers' yards with the Department, who have got far more powers in terms of searching premises.

"There are questions that some people have to answer but, in very simple terms, there was nothing found.

"We are not aware of any other cases in relation to steroids, and we have been liaising with the Department very closely."

Irish Independent

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