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A.J. Martin (Trainer) Appeal Killarney - 12th July 2016


The Appeals Body (Division Two) N.B. Wachman (in the Chair), Neville O’Byrne and John McStay met in the Stewards Room, Leopardstown Racecourse, Dublin 18 on Thursday, 21st July 2016 to consider the appeal of A.J. Martin, trainer, against the decision of the Stewards at Killarney on 12th July 2016. On that day A.J. Martin was found to be in breach of Rule 212 as the Stewards were of the opinion that he had used the racecourse as a training ground following the running of Pyromaniac in the McSweeney Arms Hotel (QR) Race. They also found P.G. McGuigan (rider –Pyromaniac) in breach of Rule 212 for making insufficient effort. As a result A.J. Martin was fined €2,000. P.G. McGuigan suspended for 7 racedays and Pyromaniac was suspended for 42 days. P.G. McGuigan did not appeal his penalty.

The grounds of appeal lodged on behalf of A.J. Martin were inter alia that he did not instruct the rider to prevent the horse from obtaining his best possible placing, and that he believed the horse to be in good physical condition for the race and that a veterinary issue had been discovered that was not available for consideration by the raceday Stewards.

Evidence was heard from A.J. Martin, Mark Kane, Equine Dentist, Mrs Patricia Regan, mother of Maurice Regan, owner of Pyromaniac, Terry Smith MRCVS, Senior Turf Club Veterinary Officer and Joan Taylor MRCVS, Turf Veterinary Officer.

The Appeals Body viewed a film of the race and also footage of a race at Wexford on 7th May 2016 which highlighted the riding style of P.G. McGuigan. They also considered a transcript of the evidence heard by the Stewards at Killarney.

In his evidence A.J. Martin described Pyromaniac as a straight forward honest horse which he had in training for three years. He said the horse was big at almost 17 hands and one of the best rides in the yard.

Mr Martin referred to his stable being closed with a virus up to recently which resulted in him having only two runners in the previous ten weeks. He said his horses were running badly since the start of the year and that he was now in the process of starting back slowly.

Mr Martin said that Pyromaniac had worked really well at home and showed him a lot in the build up to the Killarney race.

Mr Martin referred to P.G. McGuigan’s riding experience which he described as being limited and consisted of riding in four point-to-point races and three races on the track. It was his third ride for him. He said he was inexperienced even though he rode a good bit of work and had ridden Pyromaniac in his work. He said the horse suited the rider.

With regard to running Pyromaniac at Killarney, Mr Martin said that the horse was owned by Maurice Regan who came from Kerry and did not want his horse to run unless he could perform well at his local track and finish in the first three.

Reference was made to the riding instructions given to the rider which were to follow the leaders around and ride wide for three quarters of the race about three off the rails, send the horse for home two furlongs out challenging on the outside and thereafter to ride hands and heels, and only slap the horse down the shoulder if necessary. He was also told not to hit the horse behind the saddle. Mr Martin said that on form Pyromaniac was the highest rated in the race and was entitled to win. He said there was no benefit in the horse not winning and he thought the horse would win in view of the fact the main danger Zafayan had been withdrawn. He said there was nothing to be gained by not winning.

Describing the ride, Mr Martin said he was happy with the ride until going into the back bend when the leaders got away from Pyromaniac. He said he knew he was in trouble after the turn into the straight and he couldn’t understand the way the horse was ridden. He told the rider after the race that he was terrible. He referred to the fact that the rider said the horse was hanging and his head was tilted particularly in the latter stages of the race.

Mr Martin referred to a personal issue which may have impacted on him when he was giving evidence at the stewards’ enquiry at Killarney. He suggested that it would have been better for him not to have gone into the enquiry. He made reference to a number of phrases he used during the enquiry with regard to why he ran the horse in the race and said they were not meant to be taken the way he phrased them.

Mr Martin then referred to an examination carried out on Pyromaniac by his own vet on the day after the race. He said his vet discovered that the horse’s teeth were in a bad state with the result that he called his equine dentist to examine the horse. He said he contacted the Turf Club prior to any remedial dentistry work being carried out, so as the Turf Club could validate the condition of the teeth and the horse’s mouth. The Turf Club sent Terry Smith MRCVS to examine the horse on Friday, 15th July and the horse was treated on Saturday, 16th July by the equine dentist.

Mr. Martin said he was very surprised when the local Stewards found him guilty of using the racecourse as a training ground. He said he would not have brought the horse on a 10 hour round journey to do that particularly as the horse was entitled to win the race.

Mr Martin concluded his direct evidence by saying that if Pyromaniac did not run well he would have had to close his stables for another month.

A.J. Martin was cross examined by Louis Weston on behalf of the Turf Club. Mr Martin confirmed that Pyromaniac was entered in the Galway Hurdle on 13th July 2016 and was also entered in another early closing race at Galway. He said the horse had missed Ascot as he was not fit to run and the plan was to go to Killarney to see how the horse ran and take it from there. He said the horse was thrown in at the weights.

Mr Martin reiterated the riding instructions and said he instructed the rider not to use the stick (except in the forehand position only) in the latter stages of the race as any other use could unbalance the horse. Mr. Martin said he was happy that the rider understood the instructions as he had given them to him twice both in the morning and in the evening at Killarney just before the race.

Mr Weston referred to the instructions given by Mr Martin as outlined by the rider to the Stewards at Killarney, compared with the instructions outlined by Mr Martin today. He made reference to the fact that the rider (in his evidence given to the stewards at Killarney) appeared to have missed out on a whole set of instructions, particularly with regard to use of the whip. In response Mr Martin said that he had reiterated the instructions to the rider on a number of occasions both on the morning of the race and again at Killarney and perhaps his interpretation of the instructions was different.

Mr Weston referred to three occasions in the transcript where Mr Martin had used phrases such as “testing the water”, “trail stick with our horses” and also referred to uncertainty as to how his horses were. In response Mr Martin reiterated that these phrases were misinterpreted by the Stewards and that he should have used different terminology. He said what he actually meant was that if the horse didn’t run well he would have to close the yard. He reiterated that the race wasn’t a “trial stick” but what occurred was due to a bad ride.

Mr Martin said in the lead up to the race there were no issues with horse in relation to feeding or when he was being ridden on or off the bit. He said he was happy with him at home and that the horse was “as good as we could have him” and that he was eating well. He also said that nobody who looked after the horse had reported anything untoward to him.

Mr Martin said he was happy with the way the horse broke from the stalls and during most of the race. He was pleased with the horse’s position turning into the straight except that he was two to three lengths further back than he would have liked. He said the horse hung in the straight because of the issue with his teeth. He said he made no report of the hanging on the night because he thought the rider would do it.

Mr. Martin referred to the protocol in place in his yard with regard to dental inspections. He said his horses are examined each January and August and if he was aware in advance that there was a problem with Pyromaniac’s mouth he wouldn’t have run him.

Mr Martin referred back to the ride given and said he was deeply annoyed and upset with the rider and it was because of him, he was here today. He concluded by referring again to the poor form of his horses and noted that a number of major owners had decided not to send horses back to him until there was an improvement in the stable’s form so it would have been of benefit to him if the horse had won as it would have shown his yard was coming back into form.

In his evidence Mark Kane, Equine Dentist, said he was asked by A.J. Martin to examine Pyromaniac on 14th July 2016. On examination he found the horse had very sharp teeth on both the upper and lower rows and there was also a row of ulcers. Mr Kane said it is possible that the horse could have hung to the left to yield away from the pain on the right hand side of his mouth. He also said the horse may be hard to steer as his mouth was off balance and that the cheek ulceration may cause head tilting when running. Mr. Kane said he treated Pyromaniac on the Saturday morning.

In response to questioning from Louis Weston, Mr Kane accepted that none of the staff had referred to head tossing, tilting or resisting the bit in advance of the race and that the condition was only noticed after the race. He confirmed that he does not always include comments in his reports about possible impacts of the condition he has treated. He also stated that it would have been advisable for Pyromaniac’s teeth to be examined in June 2016.

In her evidence Mrs Patricia Regan said she attended Killarney races and represented her son Maurice who owned the horse. She said she was informed by A.J. Martin that the horse might win, so her friend had a bet on the horse. She also said she heard A.J. Martin saying to the rider as he mounted the horse to “do your best and win if you can”.

In his evidence Terry Smith, Senior Turf Club Veterinary Officer, went through the report he prepared following his examination of Pyromaniac. He noted sharp points on both the upper and lower molar teeth arcades left and right sides. He said there was evidence of ulceration of the mucus membrane lining the cheeks caused by the sharp points on the upper arcades and to the left and right sides of the tongue caused by the sharp points on the lower arcades.

He referred to Pyromaniac being offered some of his normal hard feed in his presence and that once he picked it up he started to hold his head to the right and dropped a substantial amount of the food on the ground. He said he asked the lad who looked after him if he had seen him feeding to which he replied no.

He concluded that the horse’s teeth affected his eating pattern and may affect his response when the bit is moved in his mouth during work, and that this could cause him pain or discomfort. It could also cause him to hang or to cock his head. He also said that he would expect a trainer to check a horse’s teeth to ensure the animal’s wellbeing but that there was no evidence of neglect even though the teeth problem was there. He felt that the ulcerations were recent. He said he also felt that an annual examination of a horse’s teeth should be sufficient.

In response to questions from Louis Weston, Mr Smith said he did not see Pyromaniac hanging when he moved to the running rail and he did not see any violent reaction in terms of hanging during the race. He did accept that the horse holding his head could be a reaction to the soreness in his mouth.

In her evidence Joan Taylor, Turf Club Veterinary Officer, said she did not notice anything in the horse’s mouth when she carried out a post-race examination on him at Killarney. Neither did she find the horse in any way distressed. However she did accept that her examination was limited to getting her thumb into the front of the horse’s mount but there was no discomfort from the horse when she did that.

Having considered the evidence the Appeals Body allowed the appeal as they found the trainer was not in breach of Rule 212(a)(iii). However they found A.J. Martin to be in breach of Rule 212(a)(ii) as the horse ran in a condition which could preclude its chances of winning. In this respect the Chairman made specific reference to the condition of the horse’s teeth.

With regard to the horse, reference was made to Rule 212(b)(i) which the rider was found in breach of, and in particular the fact that he did not give the horse a full opportunity of winning or of obtaining the best possible place.

The Appeals Body considered submissions on penalty from Eugene Gleeson SC and Louis Weston.

Prior to considering the penalties the Appeals Body said they were not accusing Mr. Martin of being negligent in any way and that it was unfortunate that the horse was not in a position to do itself justice.

Having considered the matter further they fined A.J. Martin €1,000 and ordered the horse to be suspended for 42 days. They declined an application from the Turf Club for costs and ordered the appeal deposit be refunded.

The case was presented by Louis Weston, Barrister. A.J. Martin was represented by Eugene Gleeson S.C., instructed by Kevin Power, Maurice Power Solicitors, Kilmallock, Co Limerick.

Editor’s Note:
The High Court today granted by way of ex parte application, leave to bring judicial review proceedings and imposed a stay on the commencement of the 42 day suspension of the horse.

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