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Press Briefing - Merrion Hotel - 16th October 2007

Press Briefing - Merrion Hotel - 16th October 2007

Final decision on Curragh Planning still awaited from Bord Pleanala

• Turf Club to move into new offices in November
• Health of jockeys continues to be Turf Club priority – research to be extended
• Non runner hotline to continue
• Breathalysing of jockeys commences – six meetings covered
• Advertising to be allowed on owners’ silks
• More information to be provided for racing public
• Commencement date for jockeys suspensions to be changed
• New type plastic hurdle to be used for Limerick race on 12th November

The Turf Club is still awaiting a final decision from Bord Pleanala so as construction of the new grandstand can commence. Speaking at the annual Turf Club press briefing today the Senior Steward Mr. Pierce Molony noted that the original objections to the grandstand had been lodged almost 12 months ago and that he hoped a decision was imminent which would enable construction work to begin.  He said that the design team was currently evaluating the impact of the delays with a view to setting out a new timetable to enable racing to proceed uninterrupted while construction was going on.

On a more positive note he said that there had been major progress with the development work in 2007 with the opening of the new ring road and underground horse tunnel. Mr. Molony also acknowledged the grant aid of €36 million provided by Horseracing Ireland and commitments of almost of €10 million from members of the industry.

He also noted that construction work on the new Turf Club offices had been completed.  He said that the offices were now being fitted out.  He said that it was hoped that the executives of the Turf Club would be in the new offices by the middle of November.  Construction of the new offices was necessitated by a fire which had destroyed the original offices in October 2005. The new offices will be officially opened at the Autumn General Meeting in November.

In a wide ranging address Mr Molony not alone updated the meeting on the current state of the Curragh redevelopment but also spoke of the continuing research being funded by the Turf Club to study jockeys health.  He also noted in connection with the jockeys that not alone had the proposed breathalysing programme commenced but that during the year the Turf Club were now using their own testers in relation to their stringent drug testing programme.  Previously this work had been undertaken by the Irish Sports Council.

Mr Molony also noted that on the commercial front the go-ahead had been given to owners to allow advertising on their silks.

Commencement Date for Jockeys Suspensions

Mr. Molony noted that the Turf Club had sanctioned a change in relation to the length of time between the imposition of sentence and the commencement of that suspension.  He said that currently any suspension handed down to a jockey for a breach of rule or instruction commences on the ninth day following the imposition of the penalty.  He said there was provision in the rules for the deferral of such a ban if it is two days or less and if one of the days coincides with the scheduling of a group one or grade one race.

He said that the stewards had reviewed the commencement date last year and had decided to make no change following the views expressed by the Jockeys Association.    He noted recently that it is becoming increasingly difficult, for a variety of reasons, to hold an appeal prior to a rider’s suspension commencing.   He said that because of this they had now decided to change the commencement date from day nine to day fourteen.  He said that this should help ensure that appeals were held within the fourteen day window. 

He said the decision would be reviewed in a year’s time and that if there were still problems that the commencement date might be extended out even further. 

He went on to say that the Turf Club would also be drawing up guidelines for the conduct of appeals, setting out what the Turf Club expected from appellants and their legal team in the lead up to appeals.  He said this course of action was being recommended so as to ensure that appeals are run as effectively as possible.

Breathalysing and Drug Testing

Mr Molony said that the decision to introduce breathalysing for jockeys had been implemented in June of this year.  He said that a similar system had operated quite successfully in the UK for a number of years and that discussions had taken place with the UK authorities before the introduction of the practice here in Ireland.  He noted that on any day when breathalysing takes place all jockeys riding at the meeting are breathalysed.  He said that the alcohol limits in place are exactly the same as for driving in Ireland.  He noted that to date 292 jockeys had been breathalysed with only one positive test.  He said that the breathalysing had taken place at six meetings to date.

He also noted that the Turf Club’s drug testing programme which was introduced in May 2003 continues to be successfully implemented.  He said that since its introduction some 321 riders had been tested including 46 in 2007 to date.  He said that prior to this year the testing had been done through the Irish Sports Council but that the Turf Club had now introduced their own testers.  He noted that all samples collected are analysed at the Fundacio IMIM Laboratory in Barcelona, the laboratory which was originally set up to test samples from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.  He said that all samples are tested for the full list of prohibitive substances and methods on the WADA list. He said to date there had only been one positive test which had been in 2006.


More Information for Racing Public

Mr Molony noted that the stewards of the Governing Bodies had been reviewing the holding or non holding of stewards enquiries as the case may be, in view of a number of high profile situations which arose in the past year.  He said that in all of those cases the acting stewards did ask questions but that the questions may have been asked informally by the stewards secretaries on behalf of the stewards and the explanations noted.   He said that following a review the Turf Club accepted that this was perhaps not the most appropriate way of dealing with such matters and that the public were entitled to a full explanation on the record as to why something did or didn’t occur.

He said that the Turf Club had now written to all chairmen of acting stewards stressing the importance of holding an enquiry where something happens in a race which needs to be explained to the public.  “In many cases the explanation may be  perfectly obvious to the trained observer but it is important that it is explained to everyone.  In future we will do everything possible to carry out such enquiries and make such reports public”.

Work Continues in Relation to Phone Records

Mr Molony said that last year the Turf Club had announced that it intended to bring in a rule to make it mandatory for licensees to produce records such as itemised phone bills in the event of the Turf Club having to carry out an investigation into activities on betting exchanges.  He said that at the time the proposal was that strict criteria would have to be met prior to the Turf Club being able to request such information.

He said that during the year there had been an amount of correspondence between The Turf Club and both the Trainers and Jockeys Associations.  He said that furthermore meetings had taken place with the Trainers Association on two occasions.  He noted that both associations were unhappy at what was being proposed and had suggested that in the event of an issue arising that the Turf Club should hand over its files to the Gardai.

Mr Molony said that this would be fine where there was some form of serious conspiracy to defraud but that it did not take into account how to deal with issues which relate to breaches of the rules of racing rather than the laws of the land. 
Mr Molony noted that rules providing for access to licensee records had been in place in England for a number of years and that this had enabled the Jockey Club/HRA to deal with a significant number of cases without reference to the police. He concluded by stressing the importance of similar powers being available in Ireland and that the stewards will deal with issues on an individual basis if necessary.

Research on Jockey Health to be Extended

Mr Molony said that the research work funded by the Turf Club in recent years in relation to jockeys weights had been most beneficial.  He said that based on that original research the Turf Club had funded a post graduate research position at Dublin City University to continue the research and to more fully evaluate the effect of weight restrictions on the health and performance of jockeys.  He said that based on results to date and a review of the current literature that it had been decided to focus that research on three key areas namely:

 Bone health
 Hydration
 Energy balance

He said the results from the original study indicated that poor bone health might be a major issue for some jockeys.  He said this was particularly relevant to jockeys due to the high risk nature of the sport.  He said that it was assumed that poor bone health amongst jockeys was due largely to a lack of weight bearing exercise and inadequate nutritional intake.  “A study has been undertaken to identify solutions to this problem, focusing mainly on vibration therapy and calcium supplementation.  Isolation of the cause of poor bone health will also be investigated so allowing the most appropriate treatment to be identified”. 

He said that in the original study it had been shown that jockeys appeared to be habitually dehydrated in an attempt to make racing weight.  He said that this is exacerbated on racing days.  While a lot of research has been done in other sports identifying the detrimental effects of dehydration on physical and mental performance, the specific effects on jockeys is largely unknown.   He said that it is planned to run a study to investigate the impact which dehydration may have on the special physical and mental function of jockeys.   

He said the third area being examined was that of energy balance.  He said that it was thought that jockeys expend more energy than they take in while competing so placing themselves in a state of negative energy balance or energy deficit.  He said the study would examine this area.  He said a preliminary study had already been undertaken looking at energy intake versus expenditure of professional race jockeys.  He said that this study will be submitted to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) annual conference due to take place in May 2008. 

Mr Molony noted that the results of the Irish research have been used in many other countries including Australia and South Africa as a basis for revising weights.  “Indeed only last night a programme on BBC 1 “Inside Sport” presented by former Olympic Gold Medalist Sir Matthew Pinsent used the study findings to highlight the problems modern jockeys face with making weights. The programme included interviews with Dr. Adrian McGoldrick, Fran Berry and Denis Egan and it once again emphasises the importance of continuing the research so as all the problems identified can be addressed.”

He said that the overall study programme had also identified the necessity for jockeys to take part in continuing education programmes.  He said that earlier this year the Turf Club had successfully introduced a course in RACE which dealt with fitness, lifestyle and diet.  He said to date 66 jockeys had attended.  Under the rules of racing all jockeys must attend RACE one year out of three as a condition of their licence being renewed.

High Performance Racing Helmet Research Continues

Mr Molony went on to provide an update on the two year research project being funded by the Turf Club which is aimed at improving the design and performance of the helmets used in competitive racing.  The research is being carried out by a team of engineers led by Mechanical Engineering Professor Michael Gilchrist of UCD.

He said that currently ten professional jump jockeys are participating in the project with all of them wearing instrumented Charles Owen helmets in competition racing and training over the past year.  He said that the information being provided was vital as it allowed the research team create accurate simulations both on computer and in the laboratory.

He said that this in turn allowed for modifications to helmets which would provide improved levels of head protection.  He said that he hoped the research would ultimately led to the design and manufacture of new helmets which would reduce future head injuries in racing.

New “Hotline” for Non Runners to Continue

Mr Molony noted that following a request from the off course bookmakers that the Turf Club had introduced a “non runner line” in June of this year.   This phone line is in operation seven days a week and provides a facility whereby trainers can notify non runners directly to the Turf Club at the earliest possible opportunity.  He said this information is then disseminated to the betting industry as it becomes available.  He also noted the line could be used by trainers to enquire whether or not their reserve is likely to get a run. 

Mr Molony noted that while the original plan was to pilot the line up to the Galway Festival such had been its success that it was decided to keep it in operation for the foreseeable future.  He said that currently approximately 74% of all non runners are notified by way of the line.   He said that despite the introduction of the line trainers still have the option of notifying non runners to the racecourse directly either by fax or in person.

Owners Given the Go Ahead for Advertising on Silks

Mr Molony noted that with effect from 1 January 2008 advertising would be allowed on owners silks.  He said that the Turf Club had been in discussions with the Association of Irish Race Horse Owners over the past year in relation to the introduction of such advertising.

He noted that all such sponsorship agreements were required to be lodged annually with the Turf Club.  He said that the licensing fee in relation to this would be €150.  “We are delighted to be able to provide this facility for owners and also to bring racing into line with other sports by allowing the use of logos on sporting attire worn by participants.  At present we allow the use of logos on jockeys breeches.   The scheme will allow owners to generate additional revenue by providing commercial entities with the opportunity to brand the owners silks.”

Procedures on Claiming Races to Continue

Mr Molony noted that the Trainers Association had expressed concern in relation to the procedure for claiming horses which changed at the start of the year with the only method of payment currently allowed being the use of a banker’s draft.  He said the point had been made that this restricts the ability of a person to claim a horse as that person must make up their mind before he goes to the races that they might claim and as such need to turn up with a bank draft. 

He said that the Trainers Association felt that a decision to claim a horse is only made on the spur of the moment and that the current system of claiming effectively debars this because the person concerned may not have the banker’s draft.

Mr Molony said that despite the changes in procedure seven horses had been claimed in 2007 for amounts varying from €12,151 to €36,136.  He said that as far as the Turf Club is concerned the current method of claiming is the simplest and most straightforward reducing the chances of there being problems regarding the clearing of cheques or trying to sort out who is responsible if something happens to a horse before a cheque is cleared.

He said that the Turf Club did, however, take on board the concerns of the Trainers Association and that they were currently working with Horse Racing Ireland to see if it were possible to provide an alternative method of payment through the HRI account system.

He said that this may involve the use of letters of credit and for this to work it would be important that a new system would have the support of the Trainers Association.  He said that, however, in the meantime bankers drafts would continue to be the only method of payment allowable.

Supporting Racing Charities

In concluding his briefing Mr Molony noted the work done by the Turf Club to raise money for the Drogheda Memorial Fund, a fund which looks after former licensees and their families who have fallen on hard times.

He said that every year the artist, Peter Curling, had produced a painting which appeared on the front of the Turf Club Christmas card, the proceeds of which had gone to the Drogheda Memorial Fund.  He noted that Mr Curling had already produced a picture for the current year’s Christmas card but that he had also produced a racing calendar in association with photographer Caroline Norris and Primus Advertising.  The production costs of the calendar had been sponsored by Chronicle Bookmakers and that all proceeds from the sale of the calendar would go to the four nominated Turf Club charities namely the Jockeys Accident Fund, the Qualified Riders Accident Fund, the Jockeys Emergency Fund and the Drogheda Memorial Fund.  He appealed to everyone to support sales of the calendar which is available from the Turf Club.

New Type Plastic Hurdles

Addressing the press briefing the Senior Steward of the INHS Committee Mr. John Moloney said that the National Hunt Stewards had approved the introduction of a new type plastic hurdle  following a number of trials.  He said that the new hurdle would now be used for a race at Limerick on 12th November. He said that feedback from the trainers and jockeys was positive and that both fully supported the race.

Changes to Point-to-Point Steeplechases 2007/08 Season

Mr Moloney also updated on a number of changes which will be introduced for the 2007/08 Point-Point season which included the standardisation of fence aprons and the inclusion of handler’s names on racecards. He also referred to the additional information which would now be carried on the Turf Club website including entries and the ability to download entry forms and programmes.


For further information, please contact:
Roddy Guiney, WHPR, Tel: 01 669 0030 or 087 2523 095
Cliff Noone, Turf Club Press Officer, Tel: 087 9863231

16 October 2007

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