Tag Archive for: Ronan McNally

McNally registers Dundalk winner as he awaits 12-year ban appeal

Ronan McNally gave an emotional interview after saddling his first winner since being handed a 12-year ban by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board at Dundalk on Wednesday.

The Northern Irishman, who has enjoyed big-race success with popular horses like The Jam Man and Dreal Deal, was found in breach of a number of rules by the IHRB’s referrals committee following an investigation and hearing last month, including one charge of running and training his horses in a manner “prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horseracing”.

McNally, who was also ordered to pay costs of €50,000, has since appealed the sanction which is due to come into effect on March 1, and in the meantime is allowed to continue running horses in Ireland.

As usual joined on track by his 12-year-old son Kian ‘Tubs’ McNally, the trainer was delighted to be back in the winner’s enclosure after Vee Dancer justified 2-1 favouritism in the Dundalk Winter Series Leading Trainer & Jockey Championship Handicap.

Dreal Deal was a Grade Two winner at Punchestown
Dreal Deal was a Grade Two winner at Punchestown (PA)

Afterwards he spoke of the anguish his impending suspension has caused and revealed he has reluctantly put Vee Dancer and his other stable stars up for sale.

“This horse is for sale because of my current situation. Dreal Deal is for sale, All Class is for sale and The Jam Man is for sale,” he told Racing TV.

“It’s unfortunate the position I’m in, but that’s just what we’re going to have to do at the moment. If anyone wants to get in touch, there’s a few nice Saturday horses there.

“It’s devastating. These horses are not just horses, they’re family – to think of losing them is like losing children to me. For Tubs, I would dread the day they are leaving the yard in a box and how he is going to react.

“Tubs is brilliant and I don’t want to drag him into this whole thing. It’s sad that he has to see his dad go through this and be asked questions about it, but it’s the situation we have to deal with at the moment and hopefully we’ll get through it in one piece.”

McNally is keen to fight his ban and said he is “very confident” it will be overturned on appeal, adding: “It’s totally unheard of to get warned off for 12 years – the worst penalty in Irish racing.

“I can’t see how I’m the worst person that’s ever come into Irish racing. It’s a lifetime ban. I’d have to come back after 12 years and reapply for my licence, which I would probably get rejected for.

“On appeal I’m very confident this will be turned around because I can’t see how it can be upheld. I just pray that common sense prevails and maybe we’ll get a bit of justice.

“I’d say there’s a lot of trainers that don’t want to reach out to me because they’re worried for themselves. If we start looking back at races from two or three years ago and horses coming up through the handicaps and horses going off after big gambles, I’d say there’s a lot of people in Ireland in trouble.

“I think Irish racing is in big, big trouble if that’s a precedent that’s going to be set going forward.”

Ronan McNally with The Jam Man at Navan
Ronan McNally with The Jam Man at Navan (PA)

What appears to be hurting McNally most is the fact that not only is he set to be suspended from training, but he will not be allowed to step foot on a racecourse for the duration of his ban.

His son has already made a big impact on the pony racing circuit in Ireland and McNally admits the thought of not being there for a planned professional debut in the coming years is hard to take.

“Tubs will probably have his licence in four years to go riding. He’s a very talented rider, I’ve nurtured him since he was one or two years of age and we go everywhere and do everything together,” said McNally.

“The thought of not being able to go to a racecourse to saddle up his first horse or be there to watch him coming in, it’s not ending a career, it’s ending a life for me.

“I can’t imagine he’ll even want to go racing without me as we’re like two peas in a pod. We’re best friends more than father and son and wherever I go, he goes.

“It’s sad to think that might be terminated, I think very unfairly. As I said to the committee, one thing is taking my licence away, it’s another thing banning me from going racing – it’s our life.”

McNally senior and junior are regular visitors to the Cheltenham Festival, but as things stand the trainer will not be able to make his annual pilgrimage to the Cotswolds.

He added: “At the moment I can’t even go to Cheltenham to watch it. It seems horrific.

“Mentally this is soul destroying. It’s consumed my life for two or three years and mentally it would break you.

Dreal Deal with owner and trainer Ronan McNally
Dreal Deal with owner and trainer Ronan McNally (PA)

“I’m quite a strong character, luckily enough. If you were weaker in the mind, God knows what would have happened, but I’m trying to stay strong for the child and I don’t want to be crying about it.

“I’m keeping my head held high, we’ve had a nice winner today and we’re going to enjoy that.

“Hopefully we’ll get a good appeal put together and get a good outcome.”

McNally’s son has been a regular on TV in recent years and also spoke to Racing TV at Dundalk.

On the prospect of the ban and missing the day he rides on the racecourse, he said: “I’d say it will ruin my dad’s life. It will ruin his life if he isn’t allowed to be at the races when I’m riding, that’s what I would say.”

Ronan McNally handed 12-year ban by Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board

Trainer Ronan McNally has been banned for 12 years and ordered to pay costs of €50,000 following an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board investigation and hearing.

The IHRB’s referrals committee ruled McNally breached a number of rules, including one charge of running and training his horses in a manner “prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horseracing” following a four-day hearing in October.

McNally was determined to be at least partially in breach of 10 of 11 alleged rule infringements, with the verdict announced in December ahead of sanctions being unveiled on Tuesday.

In handing down the penalty, which takes effect on March 1, the IHRB said: “The committee regards the findings against Mr McNally as very serious.

“His offences strike at the integrity of the sport and the objective of having a level playing field for all who send horses out to race. They also involved a deception of the public, especially the betting public.

“The committee has taken into account the submissions made on his behalf and his past record and the effect that severe sanctions will have on him.”

McNally has enjoyed notable success with Dreal Deal and The Jam Man in recent seasons, with the first-named landing the Grade Two Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle in 2021 and both notching up sequences of wins from lowly starting marks.

However, the pair were mentioned specifically in charges related to using the racecourse as a training ground, as well as not running on their merits, and both have been disqualified from previous victories.

Dreal Deal was a Grade Two winner at Punchestown
Dreal Deal was a Grade Two winner at Punchestown (PA)

Dreal Deal has forfeited wins at Navan in September, 2020 and Limerick in October of that year, while The Jam Man is disqualified from Limerick in September, 2020.

McNally was deemed to have achieved “a pattern of improvement in form of horses at a level previously unfamiliar to experienced and long-serving handicapping officials”.

He was also found to have incorrectly lodged ownership details of All Class, Full Noise and Petrol Head – with McNally admitting he was “unaware of the requirement to register the correct ownership details”.

The Jam Man enjoyed plenty of success for McNally
The Jam Man enjoyed plenty of success for McNally (Mike Egerton/PA)

Another trainer, David Dunne, was found to have supplied “misleading information and/or false information to an official at a stewards’ inquiry” at Navan in March 2021 as well as failing to lodge the correct ownership details related to handicap winners All Class, Full Noise and Petrol Head, all of whom ran for him between October 2020 and August 2021.

Dunne’s licence will be suspended for a period of two years, with the last 18 months suspended for a period of two years and fined €5,000. Any prize money won by All Class, Full Noise or Petrol Head when under Dunne’s care will also be forfeited with the horses disqualified.

Point-to-point handler Ciaran Fennessy was found in breach of three charges and after taking into account mitigating factors, his licence has been suspended for three years, with final two years suspended for five years. He was also fined €5,000.

Jockeys Darragh O’Keeffe and Mark Enright were found to have failed to make reports on slow starts for Dreal Deal when they rode him in June and July 2020 respectively and reminded of their duty to do so, while Eoin O’Brien was found in breach of four charges, including that he schooled the horse in public, and he will serve a 21-day ban.

Monday Musings: Who’d be a handicapper?

I suppose I could mention the Bryony Frost issue and her triumphant return to race riding with a big win in the Tingle Creek on Saturday at Sandown Park, writes Tony Stafford. Certain writers thought that victory was vindication of her situation vis a vis Robbie Dunne and his alleged bullying, swearing and whatever else from last week’s enquiry.

The situation, though, was rather like a jury of 12 men and women true having not agreed a trial verdict on a Friday night then going off to watch together private videos of everything the accused had done throughout his life over the weekend before reconvening on Monday morning. Not exactly the best example of natural justice maybe but, like Hollie and Rachael, Bryony is one of the racing public’s favourites and understandably and rightly so.

Equally, I could refer to Protektorat’s arrogant dismissal of former Gold Cup winner Native River in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree the same day, and again a woman rider, Bridget Andrews, doing the steering and presenting at the fences of brother-in-law Dan Skelton’s much-improved chaser. He now faces the prospect of challenging the Irish heavyweights in the Gold Cup next March.

You have to love the way Dan never, except in the most unavoidable situations, like multiple runners at different tracks, goes outside the family. Brother and Bridget’s husband Harry might not win the title again this year – with Brian Hughes taking it so seriously he is operating twice as fast as last season’s champion. He is however playing the sensible card and helping ensure his own longevity in the saddle by keeping it in the family.

I also loved the effort of the grey mare and proud mum of a two-year-old – “I was courted by a Derby winner don’t you know!”, says Snow Leopardess as she goes on the gallops every day. “I would show you a picture but I don’t have one on me. He’s a handsome chap, by Sir Percy, and it’s his birthday soon”.

I believe the youngster is rising three but could be corrected on that. The bold-jumping grey mare conceived and foaled during the 26 months between her successful trip over to France from Charlie Longsdon’s stable in 2017 and first run back at Newbury in late 2019.

On Saturday at Aintree she treated the Grand National fences with respect but total efficiency. It would have been an awful shame if the front-running performance clear of the field for much of the three miles and two furlongs would have resulted in defeat by a nose rather than victory by that margin over Hill Sixteen.

Lots to talk about, then, but instead I’m going to harp on about the sitting duck syndrome, brought upon domestic owners and trainers by the people whose mandate is to make handicap races a level playing field.

These well-paid officials continually err in several regards. Number one, letting Irish trainers take the mickey. Take the case of a horse who had previously raced in seven maiden and novice races and a single handicap before his owner-trainer, Ronan McNally, a notorious “touch” merchant, lined him up, cherry picking a Huntingdon 0-110 yesterday against ten unsuspecting locals.

The horse, a six-year-old, to tabulate his entire Rules career, had been successively 17th of 20 beaten 53 lengths (25/1); 10th of 20 beaten 64 lengths (50/1); 8th of 15 beaten 74 lengths (150/1); 11th of 20 beaten 63 lengths (200/1); 11th of 13, beaten 19 lengths (200/1); 16th of 18, beaten 33 lengths (50/1); and 10th of 13, beaten 19 lengths (150/1).

Just to make the job look right he was sixth of 20 in his first handicap hurdle at Down Royal, starting at 8/1. You could say that the money was down and he didn’t have a great run but if it was half down then, they went the whole hog on Vee Dancer yesterday.

Choosing a conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle and therefore able to book leading claiming rider Kevin Brogan, such was the weight of money he started an improbable 2 to 1 on. It would not be accurate to say he was always going to win as he was on and off the bridle all the way, but he won comfortably by three lengths in the end.

My complaint is that horses like that coming from another racing authority should not be allowed to run in any handicap without achieving a minimum placing: getting at least in the first four let’s say. Watch out for another three or four wins in rapid fire fashion.

He had run off 90 in that Down Royal race and our hurdles handicapper probably thought he was safe letting in him on 10lb more, but these horses have stones not pounds in hand once the hand-brake is let off.

One of the cleverest UK trainers is undoubtedly Gary Moore and I think he has even outsmarted anything he’s done previously in handicaps with his training of ex-French six-year-old Naturally High. This gelding is not only the same age as Vee Dancer but was running in a Sandown handicap hurdle on Saturday off the identical mark of 100.

He duly bolted in, dismantling some progressive young hurdlers having shot the pre-race market to pieces too. He still started odds against but when you examine his life story and the part the UK handicappers played in it, I’m sure you will see my amazement is justified.

Runner-up at Sandown was another ex-Frenchman, the Roger Teal-trained Kamaxos who was conceding him 15lb. His French Flat race mark had been 32, which equates to 70, meaning a pretty routine 45lb difference.

I mentioned Naturally High had also been trained in France, and his last four runs there in 2018 had been two victories in April in a Chantilly conditions event and a Longchamp Listed. He went up in class for his next run but finished 15th of 16 as a 16/1 shot in the Prix Du Jockey Club (French Derby), starting at much shorter odds than three of the four Aidan O’Brien candidates.

After his last run, fifth of six in a Group 2, he was allotted a mark of 47, which he still holds and which translates to 103. That makes him 33lb superior to Kamaxos from whom he was receiving 15lb on Saturday. He arrived at 100 having strolled home in his first handicap at Lingfield running off 88.

How that 88 mark was arrived at beggars belief. Normally horses are required to complete the course three times to be allotted a mark, but first time Naturally High unseated Jamie Moore before running twice more a long way out of the money. He was allowed in on that sketchy evidence but then having won the first time off a gift rating, allowing him in again off 100 was naïve in the extreme. Basically he started 15lb lower over jumps than the French figure when it should be nearer 45 or 50lb the other way!

I’ve no gripe at all with Gary Moore who had a big job to bring back to life a horse that had been bought for €120,000 at the end of 2018. Those two big wins might have started to get certain people somewhere near level with that investment because there is no doubt the money has been well and truly down both times.

It’s hard to see what can stop the hat-trick, save some overdue retaliation by the two-mile hurdles handicapper. Does he have the bottle or will he treat Naturally High (France) and (UK) as two entirely different horses?

*

I’m feeling a little bereft with the breeding stock sales’ conclusion last week and over the weekend in France. High-class racehorses and well-bred mares have rarely been in such demand and for a while on Tuesday any female with the requisite number of limbs and the ability to conceive was almost guaranteed to go to at least six figures.

I do not intend identifying the young lady who relates to this little tale save to say her putative trips to the sales have been mentioned here recently. She had her eye on a Shadwell filly – there were 90 in the catalogue last week – in Wednesday’s sale and hoped to get it for a song as it hadn’t run.

I had suggested going on Thursday when all the big buyers had gone home and she could pick up something very cheaply but at the same time be prepared for its being modest enough. She persisted and when I checked that evening whether she had any luck, she said, “No, it went for 70 grand!”

Now I know people in her situation that might have claimed to have been the under-bidder, like the Irish trainer who made very public that distinction in regard to the sale of triple Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq.

I was changing planes one day in the US coming back from Keeneland sales when Timmy Hyde caught up with me and said: “You were the under-bidder for Istabraq weren’t you? I know you were, I was standing right behind you.

“Well that fe..ing D…. M…..is telling everyone he was!” Saudi Arabia’s loss was Ireland’s gain, although when I asked how much short my 36k bid had been, Timmy said: “J P told me to go to 100 grand!”

- TS