Two years ago trainer Howard Johnson was banned for three years after he was found to have run a horse that had undergone an operation to remove the nerve endings in one of its legs. Now a similar case has come to light involving Beverley trainer Ian McInnes.
This isn’t a matter of McInnes ignoring what happened to Johnson and believing he wouldn’t be found out, as the races in which he is accused of running Commando Scott took place in 2009, before Johnson’s misdemeanour came to light. There is a similarity between the two incidents, in that McInnes says that at the time he was unaware that there was a ban on horses running after such an operation.
Given that is the same defence Johnson used, McInnes must be concerned that he will receive a similar punishment when the British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel meets next month.
The palmer neurectomy operation effectively causes numbness in horse’s leg by severing the nerve endings. It leads to a horse not feeling pain in the affected area, and because that could mean it continued running when seriously injured, participation is banned on welfare grounds, as well as the additional risk it could present for jockeys.
Commando Scott underwent this operation during 2008, and then ran nine times during the 2009 flat season. He generally finished well down the field, but did achieve one second placing in a Wolverhampton handicap.
Perhaps as serious for McInnes are the additional charges he faces that he “explicitly lied about his knowledge of the horse having undergone the neurectomy procedure" and "denying knowledge and making arrangements to have the horse removed from his yard to avoid the BHA having access for the purposes of examination".
This all appears relatively clear, and it is hard to see any circumstances in which McInnes won’t face a lengthy ban.
What I find hard to understand is what happened after Commando Scott left McInnes at the end of 2009 and went to Declan Carroll’s stable. The horse ran ten times for his new yard in 2010, scoring wins in races at Doncaster and Thirsk. An investigation has found Carroll had no knowledge of the operation on the horse and has no charges to answer on that score.
Now I’m not disputing that at all, but it seems to me a nonsense that a horse can move between stables with no up to date medical record. Of course, if Carroll had been resented with such a record, presumably he would not have accepted Commando Scott, and indeed, may well have asked why on earth he was even offered a horse that was not eligible to run. No doubt we’ll find out in due course whether there was any deception about that on the part of McInnes.