Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 18 March 2018

Richard Forristal: Uneasy truce in Michael O'Leary row

Gigginstown chief decides to withdraw Devils appeal

The Michael O’Leary-owned Don Cossack (left) jumps the last under Davy Russell before coming with a strong late run to collar the Tony McCoy-ridden Carlingford Lough (right) to claim yesterday’s Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse ALAN CROWHURST/GETTY IMAGES
The Michael O’Leary-owned Don Cossack (left) jumps the last under Davy Russell before coming with a strong late run to collar the Tony McCoy-ridden Carlingford Lough (right) to claim yesterday’s Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse ALAN CROWHURST/GETTY IMAGES
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

MICHAEL O'LEARY'S appeal against the Fairyhouse stewards' decision last week to ban Devils Bride from racing for two days that was scheduled to be heard today has been withdrawn.

It is a development which confirms that recent tensions between the reigning champion owner and the Turf Club have been defused.

O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud juggernaut has become synonymous with declaring multiple runners for races, often withdrawing one before off-time if the going changes.

He has a legion of horses in training, so he likes to keep his options open for as long as possible, especially in prestigious graded events. Often, they take each other on.

Other times, though, they don't, having contracted a cough or picked up a stone bruise or due to a change in the official going.

It's a situation that often leaves punters hopelessly in the dark as to what shape a race will actually take on until very late, with jockey changes part of the collateral damage.

Keith Donoghue has been a high-profile casualty on that front after he vented his frustrations at being belatedly jocked off two of Gigginstown's Gordon Elliott-trained horses.


It was understandable that he was annoyed, slightly less so that he felt compelled to publicly declare that the way he was being treated was a "disgrace" and that "Gigginstown can do what they want".

In one sense, he was only saying what many were thinking, but he bit the hand that fed.

Donoghue, who rode Toner D'Oudairies into second at the Cheltenham Festival last year, has not ridden for the firm since. Such uncompromising consequences – for so long the Ryanair CE's trademark – may have been to the fore in the Turf Club's thinking as things came to a head recently.

At Cork last month, the stewards allowed Gigginstown's retained rider Davy Russell switch to Rogue Angel after his intended mount Road To Riches was withdrawn due to being reported lame.

The stewards permitted the change, but referred the matter to the Turf Club's chief executive Denis Egan, who revealed in a press release on Monday that the matter was closed as "no rules were broken" at Cork.

Road To Riches recovered to win at Naas, six days after he was pulled out at Cork. Incidentally, it was also last Monday, in a 'Racing Post' story, that O'Leary threatened to take the Turf Club to the High Court if he didn't succeed in getting the Fairyhouse stewards' decision overturned on appeal.

Devils Bride was taken out on the basis that there was a change in the official going, which is a legitimate reason for withdrawal.

This time, the stewards on duty exercised their discretionary right to take action. They fined his trainer Willie Mullins €200, and banned Devils Bride from racing for two days, ruling him out of Thurles, where he had been declared to run 24 hours later.

Strictly speaking, as ever, O'Leary had the law on his side because there was an official going change, however marginal. Still, it is a policy that some were of the view was undermining the spirit of the law, and there was a sense that stewards were anxious to address the issue.

Last Monday, O'Leary stated that he would continue declaring multiple runners and withdrawing anything that isn't suited by the eventual ground. He also said that he had offered to do whatever he could to improve the situation, but there is no stipulation in the rules to nominate horses' ground preference at declaration time.

Somewhere along the line, peace broke out.

It emerged yesterday that O'Leary agreed to withdraw the appeal on Friday. By the same token, every one of his declared runners lined out yesterday.

The outcome and the way the whole episode has been handled has variously been described as a farce and a fudge, with nobody knowing what the compromise was – if there was one.

It's possible that both sides conceded ground. After all, conciliation seems to be part of his new image at Ryanair, and this is meant to be O'Leary's pastime.

Entrenched warfare wasn't going to benefit anyone, so it will be interesting to see if things continue as they did yesterday.


The wait for a first Irish-trained winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup since 1980 goes on after Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson won the prestigious Newbury handicap for a second year in a row with Triolo D'Alene.

Jim Culloty's well-fancied RSA Chase winner Lord Windermere fared best of the raiders by tiring into eighth after showing up well for a long way.

Last year's Topham Chase winner, Triolo D'Alene was sent off a 20/1 shot having finished third on his Ascot reappearance, but he outran those odds to see off Paul Nicholls' Rocky Creek with a bit to spare.

David Pipe's Our Father (seventh) eventually went off the 11/2 favourite, though he did so without Timmy Murphy on his back after the Kildare-born rider dislocated his shoulder in a weighing-room fracas with Dominic Elsworth on Friday.

An inquiry into what happened between the two riders is due to be held at Wincanton on Thursday.

On the same card, JP McManus' At Fishers Cross' winning sequence came to an abrupt end under Geraghty when Nicholls' Celestial Halo enjoyed an uncontested early lead en route to a resounding 17-length rout on his seasonal bow.

At Fishers Cross blundered badly when he was challenging two-out, though he still had a bit to do to get by the Daryl Jacob-ridden eventual winner.


My Tent Or Yours ensured an across-the-card big-race double for Henderson by justifying his long odds-on status courtesy of a smooth victory under AP McCoy in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.

With Melodic Rendezvous failing to rise to the occasion at Newcastle, JP McManus' Supreme Novices' Hurdle runner-up faced little in terms of meaningful opposition in the two-mile Grade One, yet he was subsequently cut from 6/1 to as low as 7/2 outright favourite for the Champion Hurdle.

The bookmakers' reaction was duly derided by the perennial champion jockey on the basis that his mount didn't do anything he wouldn't have expected him to do. Henderson's lucrative run could continue this week. Oscar Whisky is pencilled in for a novice chase at Exeter on Friday, and the mighty champion chaser Sprinter Sacre will make his reappearance in Saturday's Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.


5,720 The official attendance at Fairyhouse yesterday, up 1,604 on the 2012 tally.

5Days' ban that Shane 'Dusty' Foley incurred for careless riding when squeezing his way out en route to winning on Rummaging at Dundalk last Friday week. The Turf Club announced on Friday that the case has been reopened so that a Referrals Committee can reconsider the leniency of the ban, amid ongoing concern about frequent incidents of rough racing at the all-weather track. Rummaging kept the race despite Foley's transgression, something that is accepted will usually happen in similar cases in Ireland, which tends to encourage a win-at-all-costs mentality.



Mighty day for @YoughalGAA win over London, now into All-Ireland semi-finals

– The GAA fanatical champion jockey acknowledges his home-town club's five-point triumph over London's St Gabriel's in yesterday's intermediate club hurling quarter-final.

Irish Independent

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