Saturday 14 December 2019

Irish jockey and trainer lose challenge over investigation into irregular betting patterns

JOCKEY Eddie O'Connell and trainer Jim Lambe have failed in a legal challenge to the Turf Club over the enforcement of the rules of horse racing.

Their High Court action was aimed at preventing the Turf Club from making any adverse findings against them over allegations they were involved in irregular betting - a claim both men deny.

Today, Mr Justice Brian McGovern said Mr O'Connell and Mr Lambe, who brought the case after the Turf Club opened an investigation into claims of irregular betting, had failed to establish any grounds that would allow the court rule in the men's favour.

The action arose out of the Turf Club's investigation following the running of a horse called Yachvili in the Kerry Food European Breeders Funds Beginners Chase run at Downpatrick on September 21, 2011.

Yachvili was ridden by Mr O'Connell, of Harbour View, Monasterevin, Co Kildare, and trained by Mr Lambe, Brookland Stables, Red Lion Road, Kilmore, Co Armagh.

They asked the court to declare that any decision the Turf Club makes arising out of its investigation was null and void.

Its jurisdiction to impose sanctions could not be found in the legislation which set it up as the  statutory body regulating flat racing, they claimed.

They also sought declarations that sections of the Irish Horse Racing Industry Act 1994, the legislation which made it the statutory body, were unconstitutional.

The men claimed any decision taken by the Turf Club could end their careers and damage their "good names".  Under the Rules of Racing, the Turf Club can impose sanctions such as a fine, suspension or a lifetime ban from racing.

The Turf Club and the Attorney General, a notice party in the case, opposed the action.

The Turf Club argued both men are bound by the rules of racing and must accept any sanction imposed on them should they be found to have breached the rules.

Mr Justice McGovern  said the application raised "interesting and important issues as the constitution and status" of the Turf Club and had "potentially far reaching consequences."

It also "brought into focus the extent which it is permissible for the courts to intervene in sporting matters," he said.

The legislation challenged in this case the Judge said was to promote integrity and fair play in horse racing. As far as the court was concerned those rules are "consistent and serve that purpose."

The judge said the Turf club had exercised a delegated regulatory function, which Mr O'Connell and Mr Lambe had voluntarily submitted to.

The judge rejected their claims that part of the relevant legislation was unconstitutional.

He noted the Turf Club had concluded its investigation into the alleged betting irregularities.

He said that during the hearing there was some disagreement between the sides whether the results of that investigation should be included in his judgment.

As the investigation's findings did not affect the issues he had to decide, he would not refer to the outcome of the investigation.

The investigation commenced after on-line betting exchange Betfair made a complaint to the Turf Club, the court heard.

Betfair alleged two UK based individuals had placed a bet, known as a lay bet, of £10,000 on Yachvili not to finish in the top three.

The bet was successful and Betfair paid out winnings of Stg £2000.  Betfair claimed that records revealed the amount gambled was much greater than the individuals in question had ever gambled before.

Mr O'Connell, Mr Lambe and others, including the horse owner Robert Martin, were investigated by the Turf Club to determine if the rules of racing were breached in that race.

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