Tag Archive for: HRI

Irish officials defend drugs record as committee hearings start

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board launched a staunch defence of its record concerning drug testing in the first of a series of hearings in front of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food, and the Marine.

Members of the committee put questions to Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, Denis Egan, chief executive of the IHRB, and Dr Lynn Hillyer, chief veterinary officer at the IHRB.

The meetings were arranged following concern over claims in a newspaper interview by leading trainer Jim Bolger that racing would have its own “Lance Armstrong” moment regarding drug use in the sport.

It began with Kavanagh reading out an opening statement in which he stressed the importance of the racing industry to Ireland’s economy and “as such, the reputation and integrity of the product is of paramount importance, so the issue of drug testing is an important one with significant funds invested annually in this area”.

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland (PA Wire)

He went on to say: “HRI sees its role as ensuring that the IHRB has sufficient resources, both financial, human and capital to carry out its responsibilities to the level expected of a major racing nation – and we support the IHRB to constantly improve their capacity in this area.”

Kavanagh also reported that all winners in Ireland are tested, that there has been an increase in out-of-competition testing and tests are also carried out at sales, studs and point-to-point meetings.

He said that “spending on doping control has increased by 27 per cent in the last four years, and Horse Racing Ireland has advised the IHRB that funding will never be an issue for meaningful initiatives to improve capability or increase capacity in this area”.

Egan, who recently announced he was taking early retirement, stated: “The IHRB’s Equine Anti-Doping programme has developed into a sophisticated and extensive risk-based and intelligence-led strategy, in which it is not just the numbers of samples which matter but from what horse they are taken, where and when.”

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board is based at the Curragh
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board is based at the Curragh (PA Wire)

Egan also addressed accusations that the IHRB had not acted upon information they were given by a reported whistleblower.

“Any information received by us is assessed, categorised and actioned as appropriate,” he said.

“It is vitally important to the IHRB that those directly and indirectly involved in the industry understand this and the fact that they can provide any information to us in a confidential manner via the confidential hotline, email or by contacting our officials.”

In concluding his opening speech, Egan said: “We have a top-class anti-doping team headed up by Dr Lynn Hillyer – and while we continue to evidence that there is no systematic attempt to cheat through doping in Irish racing, we will continue, with the assistance of the industry and those outside, to effectively detect, disrupt and deter such behaviour. It will not be tolerated – we will continue to seek it out – and where discovered, we will take all actions within our power to combat it without fear or favour.”

Like Egan, Hillyer took issue with the claims of inaction.

She said: “The process is very simple. The information can come in via a number of routes, but once it lands on a desk it is dealt with.

“We don’t care how it comes in, but the important thing is that it comes in. We need to differentiate between information coming in and hearsay. I’m not saying we disregard either, but we have to process it and assess it – that is basically converting information into intelligence, and we work very closely with the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) now. Every piece of information is logged.

“One of the things that rankled the most reading the piece last week was the six horses sold from Ireland to the UK who were alleged to have traces of anabolic steroids.

“We were alleged to be doing nothing about it, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The minute that information came to the BHA they acted on it and communicated with us – we were across it and we were prepared to act.

“They did the most extensive piece of work I think I’ve ever seen. They analysed tail hair, mane hair – they analysed samples repeatedly, and there was nothing.”

Thursday’s meeting was scheduled to last two hours. But not all questions were asked, and it will reconvene on July 20 to address the remaining areas of interest.

On Tuesday there will be another meeting, with representatives of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association and representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine.

Bolger to be invited before committee to discuss doping claims

Jim Bolger is to be invited before an Irish parliamentary committee investigating claims of doping in the Irish horse racing industry, it has been confirmed.

Agriculture Committee chairman Jackie Cahill said Bolger’s claims were doing “serious reputational damage” to the industry and that it was important they are either “substantiated or put to bed”.

The Fianna Fail TD for Tipperary confirmed that committee members had decided to ask Bolger and representatives of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, Horse Racing Ireland, the Department of Agriculture and the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association to discuss the matter on July 6.

Earlier this month, Bolger – who this season has won the 2000 Guineas and the Irish equivalent with Poetic Flare and Mac Swiney respectively – outlined his concerns about the possibility of doping within Irish racing in both a newspaper interview and in a racing podcast.

It prompted the IHRB to underline its commitment to “the highest standards of integrity within Irish racing” and a “zero-tolerance approach to doping”.

Cahill told the PA news agency it is “hugely important” that the accusations are investigated given Ireland’s horse racing reputation.

“We’re seen as the world leaders in horse racing. For a small country our success is phenomenal,” he said.

“We really punch above our weight and for a lead trainer – Jim Bolger – to say that there would be a Lance Armstrong incident in Irish racing is extremely serious.

“It just can’t be ignored it must be dealt with.”

He added: “In my view he has to either confirm it or withdraw it. It’s doing serious reputational damage.

Cahill said there is an “obligation” on the committee to investigate the claims.

“The way we look at this is this issue either has to be substantiated or put to bed,” he said.

“You can’t having a doping insinuation like that hanging over the industry.”

“We’ll see what Mr Bolger has to say and we’ll listen to the various authorities and see where we go from there.”

A spokesperson for the IHRB said on Tuesday: “We would welcome the opportunity to meet with the deputies on the Oireachtas Committee and explain details of what we do in terms of equine anti-doping and our strategies as well as the advances that have been made in this area over the last number of years and more recently.”

HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh to end tenure in September

Brian Kavanagh will leave his role as chief executive officer of Horse Racing Ireland at the end of his current contract in September.

Kavanagh has held the position for 20 years – and HRI, which is the commercial semi-state body responsible for the overall governance, development, promotion and administration of thoroughbred racing in Ireland, will begin a recruitment campaign on Friday.

HRI chairman Nicky Hartery said: “I would like to thank Brian Kavanagh for 20 years of incredible service and deep commitment to Horse Racing Ireland and to the industry in Ireland.

“Brian was the first CEO of Horse Racing Ireland when appointed in 2001 – and during his time, he has played a huge role in Irish racing and breeding, enabling it to become a leader on the global stage while domestically overseeing the growth of a vital rural-based industry.

“His knowledge and expertise, at home and abroad, will no doubt ensure that Brian will continue to play a significant part in the industry, and we wish him well.”

Kavanagh added: “It has been a privilege to serve as chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland and to work under three different chairmen who each promoted a strategic vision for the Irish horse racing and breeding industries.

“It is a sector full of variety and of really talented people, and I have nothing but good memories of the projects and people that I have dealt with on the way. I would like to pay particular tribute to the board members and staff of Horse Racing Ireland, past and present, whose commitment and dedication to the improvement of the industry has been a constant during my time as chief executive.”

Irish-trained horses dominated this year’s Cheltenham Festival, providing 23 of the 28 winners at the four-day meeting.

Kavanagh added: “Last week was a good week for racing, but we cannot rest on our laurels – and there is much work to do between now and September.

“While Brexit and Covid-19 are currently providing significant challenges, there are wonderful opportunities facing the sector also. Our horses and our people are our greatest strength.”

BHA announces interim suspension on Elliott runners in Britain

Gordon Elliott will not be permitted to have runners in Britain until the conclusion of an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board investigation into an image on social media that showed the Grand National-winning trainer sitting on a dead horse on his gallops.

Racing authorities in Britain and Ireland have condemned the image, which Elliott confirmed in a statement on Sunday evening was genuine, apologising “profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused”, while seeking to explain what he said was the context of events that led to the photograph.

The IHRB has already launched a full investigation – and while Elliott is licensed in Ireland, the British Horseracing Authority said it was “appalled” by the image and was “considering its own regulatory options”, but has now acted.

A statement on Monday evening said: “The British Horseracing Authority will not allow the Irish trainer Gordon Elliott to race horses in Britain whilst the Irish authorities investigate an image that appeared on social media over the weekend.

“The trainer admitted the photo was genuine and apologised for his actions.

British Horseracing Authority headquarters in London
British Horseracing Authority headquarters in London (John Stillwell/PA)

“The BHA, which regulates racing in Britain, will use powers under its own rules to refuse to allow horses trained by Mr Elliott to race in Britain pending consideration of the outcome of the Irish investigation.

“The action taken by the BHA recognises that Mr Elliott is licensed in Ireland, whose regulatory body, the IHRB, is carrying out its own investigation.

“However, Mr Elliott has entered horses to race in Britain, from which point the British rules of racing apply to him.

“The decision to refuse to allow horses trained by Mr Elliott to run in Britain is therefore an interim decision which the BHA regards as proportionate in these circumstances.”

The BHA added that owners of horses currently trained by Elliott are permitted to transfer them to a different trainer and run them at a British meeting, “providing they comply with the relevant rules”.

An earlier statement had read: “The BHA is appalled by the image that appeared this weekend. We expect all those in our sport to demonstrate respect for horses, on the racecourse, in the training yard, on the gallops, and wherever they have horses in their care.

“People who work in our industry believe their values – of caring for and respecting our horses – have been deeply undermined by this behaviour. On their behalf, and on behalf of all horse lovers, we say loudly that British horseracing finds this totally unacceptable.

“The BHA is considering its own regulatory options, recognising that the Irish authorities license Mr Elliott and are carrying out their own investigation.”

Horse Racing Ireland, the national authority for thoroughbred racing in Ireland, echoed those sentiments, saying the picture was a “disservice” to people in racing.

A statement said: “Horse Racing Ireland unreservedly condemns the disturbing photograph that appeared on social media at the weekend.

“This image does not reflect the care, attention and respect that race horses receive, and does a disservice to the thousands of people who look after their horses on a daily basis. Horse Racing Ireland notes and supports the IHRB investigation into the circumstances around the photograph.

“From a disciplinary perspective, the matter is in process, so any further comment on the matter or the detail of the case at this time would not be appropriate.”

Black Tears was a winner at Punchestown on Monday for Elliott
Black Tears was a winner at Punchestown on Monday for Elliott (Niall Carson/PA)

The IHRB is hoping for a speedy resolution to the case, with a spokesman adding: “As is the case with all investigations carried out by the IHRB, there is a process that must be followed – and that will be the case in this instance.

“As stated over the weekend, this will be dealt with as quickly as possible.”

Despite the controversy, it was business as usual for Elliott on the racecourse at least, as he sent out Black Tears to win the Grade Three Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown – while Papal Lodge, Coach Carter and Mighty Potter were also on the mark for the Cullentra team.

Tiger Roll 2019 Grand National Winners Parade
Michael O’Leary will continue to support Elliott (Brian Lawless/PA)

Elliott also received a boost as Gigginstown House Stud owner Michael O’Leary confirmed his team – including dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll – would be going nowhere, opting to accept an apology for a “grievous but momentary lapse of judgement from Gordon”.

Cheveley Park Stud, who count hot Cheltenham Festival favourite Envoi Allen among their Elliott string, said they were “truly horrified and dismayed by the photograph”, but will wait for the IHRB investigation to conclude before making any decisions on the future.

Sire Du Berlais is prominent in the betting for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival. Frank Berry, racing manager for his owner JP McManus, declined to comment on the situation when contacted on Monday morning.

But online bookmakers Betfair – for whom Elliott has been an ambassador for several years – made a swift decision to cut ties with the trainer.

A statement read: “While we recognise that Gordon deeply regrets and apologised unreservedly for his poor judgement, his actions are completely at odds with the values of the Betfair brand and that of our employees.

“With that in mind, we have decided to discontinue our association with Gordon with immediate effect.”

The four-day Cheltenham Festival is due to get under way on March 16.

British and Irish racing authorities condemn Elliott image

Racing authorities in Britain and Ireland have condemned the image of Grand National-winning trainer Gordon Elliott which circulated on social media over the weekend.

In a statement issued late on Sunday evening, Elliott confirmed the image, which showed him sitting on a dead horse, was genuine and apologised “profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused”, while seeking to explain what he said was the context of events that led to the picture.

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has already launched a full investigation – and while Elliott is licensed in Ireland, the British Horseracing Authority is “considering its own regulatory options”, saying it is “appalled” by the image.

A statement read: “The BHA is appalled by the image that appeared this weekend. We expect all those in our sport to demonstrate respect for horses, on the racecourse, in the training yard, on the gallops, and wherever they have horses in their care.

“People who work in our industry believe their values – of caring for and respecting our horses – have been deeply undermined by this behaviour. On their behalf, and on behalf of all horse lovers, we say loudly that British horseracing finds this totally unacceptable.

“The BHA is considering its own regulatory options, recognising that the Irish authorities license Mr Elliott and are carrying out their own investigation.”

Horse Racing Ireland, the national authority for thoroughbred racing in Ireland, echoed those sentiments, saying the picture was a “disservice” to people in racing.

A statement said: “Horse Racing Ireland unreservedly condemns the disturbing photograph that appeared on social media at the weekend.

“This image does not reflect the care, attention and respect that race horses receive, and does a disservice to the thousands of people who look after their horses on a daily basis. Horse Racing Ireland notes and supports the IHRB investigation into the circumstances around the photograph.

“From a disciplinary perspective, the matter is in process, so any further comment on the matter or the detail of the case at this time would not be appropriate.”

Black Tears was a winner at Punchestown on Monday for Elliott
Black Tears was a winner at Punchestown on Monday for Elliott (Niall Carson/PA)

The IHRB is hoping for a speedy resolution to the case, with a spokesman adding: “As is the case with all investigations carried out by the IHRB, there is a process that must be followed – and that will be the case in this instance.

“As stated over the weekend, this will be dealt with as quickly as possible.”

Despite the controversy, it was business as usual for Elliott on the racecourse at least, as he sent out Black Tears to win the Grade Three Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown – while Papal Lodge, Coach Carter and Mighty Potter were also on the mark for the Cullentra team.

Tiger Roll 2019 Grand National Winners Parade
Michael O’Leary will continue to support Elliott (Brian Lawless/PA)

Elliott also received a boost as Gigginstown House Stud owner Michael O’Leary confirmed his team – including dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll – would be going nowhere, opting to accept an apology for a “grievous but momentary lapse of judgement from Gordon”.

Cheveley Park Stud, who count hot Cheltenham Festival favourite Envoi Allen among their Elliott string, said they were “truly horrified and dismayed by the photograph”, but will wait for the IHRB investigation to conclude before making any decisions on the future.

Sire Du Berlais is prominent in the betting for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival. Frank Berry, racing manager for his owner JP McManus, declined to comment on the situation when contacted on Monday morning.

But online bookmakers Betfair – for whom Elliott has been an ambassador for several years – made a swift decision to cut ties with the trainer.

A statement read: “While we recognise that Gordon deeply regrets and apologised unreservedly for his poor judgement, his actions are completely at odds with the values of the Betfair brand and that of our employees.

“With that in mind, we have decided to discontinue our association with Gordon with immediate effect.”

Monalee forced to miss King George due to Irish travel ban

Horse Racing Ireland has announced that no Irish-trained horses or jockeys will be allowed to compete in the United Kingdom until December 31 in light of the Irish Government ban on UK travel.

In addition, no UK-based horses will be allowed to run in Ireland during that time.

The news is a blow to trainer Henry de Bromhead, who had intended to run Monalee in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on Boxing Day and Put The Kettle On against Altior in the Desert Orchid Chase a day later.

De Bromhead said: “Obviously it’s disappointing, but that’s just the way the cards have fallen and that’s the way it is.”

Irish horses will be missing from Kempton's Christmas meeting
Irish horses will be missing from Kempton’s Christmas meeting (David Davies/PA)

Monalee has the alternative option of running in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown on December 28, in which he has finished second in each of the past two seasons, although his owner Barry Maloney already has the hot favourite for this year’s renewal in Minella Indo.

Arkle heroine Put The Kettle On could line up for the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown 27.

“I don’t know whether they’ll go to Leopardstown or not – we haven’t made any plans yet,” De Bromhead added.

“They both have options, so we’ll speak to their owners and decide after that.”

Gordon Elliott looked set to be represented at Chepstow on Sunday in the Finale Hurdle, while Olly Murphy was intending to send Thomas Darby across the Irish Sea to Leopardstown, but updated guidance has put paid to those plans.

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of HRI, said: “The concern from Government is very clear – these are exceptional times and a travel ban with the UK is a once-in-a-generation occurrence.

Arkle heroine Put The Kettle On was due to take on Altior this weekend
Arkle heroine Put The Kettle On was due to take on Altior this weekend (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“Irish racing has followed Government advice at all times during Covid-19 and will continue to do so.

“In that regard, we are advising that no Irish-trained horses or jockeys should travel to the UK for competition between now and December 31, and no UK horses or jockeys should travel in the opposite direction.”

Kavanagh added: “It’s a shame as runners from the different countries add to the meetings at both Kempton and Leopardstown, but these are unprecedented times.

“We’re hoping after the 31st the ban will be lifted, I think it’s a short-term thing to take stock.

“The main thing is racing can carry on behind closed doors.”

Owners to return to Irish tracks from Monday

Horse Racing Ireland has announced owners can return to the track from Monday.

In line with new Irish Government guidelines which now permit racing and other outdoor sports to have a limited number of spectators, owners can now be welcomed back.

HRI had previously stated owners were among their top priorities as the industry attempts to return to some sense of normality and from Monday two people per horse will be allowed.

Pre-meeting health screening and temperature checks will be required.

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of HRI, said: “We are delighted to confirm that for the first time since March 13, owners will be permitted to return to the racecourse from Monday next.

“Owners play the most important role in Irish racing and they have had to wait quite some time to return to the racecourse to see their horses run.

“We have always said that getting owners back on the racecourse was our first priority and we have been working closely on this with the Association of Irish Racehorse Owners and their representative Caren Walsh.

“As all key personnel who have been racing behind closed doors since June 8 will testify, these are not race fixtures as we used to know them, and given the ongoing public health risk, it remains as important now as it ever has been, that all those attending racecourses adhere strictly to the race day protocols.

“Since we resumed racing in Ireland, the level of care and compliance with the Covid-19 protocols has been excellent and it is vital that everybody continues to comply with the rules on the racecourse around pre-health screening, social distancing and the wearing of face masks or coverings at all times.”