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Aloha Star Appeal - The Curragh 9th August 2020

The Appeals Body (Division 2) Mr. N.B. Wachman (in the chair) Mr. Justice Tony Hunt and Mr. Laurence McFerran convened at Leopardstown Racecourse on 13th August 2020 to consider the Appeal of J.A. Stack (Trainer) and D Keoghan (Owner) against the decision of the Stewards at The Curragh on 9th August 2020.


On the day, following the running of the Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes, the Stewards were satisfied that Aloha Star (IRE), ridden by C.D. Hayes, placed second, had caused interference to The Lir Jet (IRE), ridden by O.J. Orr, placed third, and in doing so had improved its finishing position. The Stewards therefore reversed the Judge’s placings of the second and third placed horses. The grounds of the appeal lodged by Mr. Stack and Mr. Keoghan were that the Stewards erred in their decision.


Evidence was heard from Mr. Hayes, Mr. Stack and Mr. Orr and the Appeals Body also watched a recording of the race.


In his evidence, Mr. Hayes referred to an incident approximatively four furlongs from the finish where he stated that his mount received a bump from The Lir Jet (IRE) which unbalanced Aloha Star. He stated that for a furlong and a half after this incident he had nursed Aloha Star (IRE) back into the race and to adjust her lead leg and he felt that this bump had changed the complexion of the race. Mr. Hayes described the nature of the track at The Curragh on which this race took place and that horses have a tendency to lean towards the stand side rail due to the undulations of the track. He accepted that there was further contact inside the final two furlongs but did not accept that Aloha Star (IRE) had intimidated The Lir Jet (IRE) or knocked that horse off balance. He added that Mr. Orr’s body language had never changed in the closing stages of the race and it was in his opinion that if The Lir Jet (IRE) had been intimidated or knocked off balance that the horse would have changed his lead or his head carriage would have changed as a result but this did not appear to be the case with The Lir Jet (IRE). Furthermore, Mr. Hayes confirmed that he was confident of Aloha Star (IRE) holding off The Lir Jet (IRE) for second place in the closing stages and thus he finished out the race using hands and heels and without needing to use his whip inside the final 50 yards.


In his evidence, Mr. Stack provided details of his pre-race instructions to Mr. Hayes. He explained that The Lir Jet (IRE) had the best form of the horses drawn close to Aloha Star (IRE) and therefore the plan was for Mr. Hayes to follow Mr. Orr on The Lir Jet (IRE). Mr. Stack referred to the footage of the race when Mr. Hayes decided to make a move alongside Mr. Orr because of the slow pace in the early part of the race and with around four furlongs to race Aloha Star (IRE) received a bump from The Lir Jet (IRE) which unbalanced her and intimidated her. He added that, in his opinion, this could have also affected her breathing for a period of time and Aloha Star (IRE) did not cause interference to The Lir Jet (IRE) which justified the placings being altered.


In his evidence, Mr. Orr explained that he was taking his time when he decided to move out around Admiral Nelson (GB) inside the final four furlongs. He stated that after he made this manoeuvre he had kept a straight line on The Lir Jet (IRE) until he received a bump from Aloha Star (IRE) which then left his mount with no choice but to go left. Mr. Orr added, that in his opinion, he had moved at least six horse widths left and if Aloha Star (IRE) had not being going that way The Lir Jet (IRE) would have stayed straight and this was the difference of being beaten a shorthead for second place.


Having considered the evidence, the Appeals Body could not find any error with the decision of the Stewards on the day and stated that they were also of the opinion that, on the balance of probabilities, interference had been caused by Aloha Star (IRE) resulting in her improving her placing and they dismissed the appeal. They also ordered that the deposit be forfeited.


The Appeals Body also considered the appeal of C.D. Hayes against the decision of the Stewards at The Curragh following the same incident to find him in breach of Rule 214, in that he had ridden carelessly by failing to take reasonable steps to avoid causing interference.


Mr. Hayes again outlined how the race in question developed and that it was in his opinion that The Lir Jet (IRE) was a much bigger horse than Aloha Star (IRE) and given the stature of his mount in comparison to The Lir Jet (IRE) she wouldn’t be able to intimidate him. He stated that, in his opinion, The Lir Jet (IRE) had drifted away from Mr. Orr’s use of the whip rather than being intimidated by Aloha Star (IRE).


Having considered the evidence, the Appeals Body could not find any error with the decision of the Stewards on the day as they were also of the opinion that Mr. Hayes was in breach of Rule 214. However, having considered mitigating factors they reduced the suspension of one raceday imposed by the Stewards on the day to a caution and ordered that the deposit be refunded.


The case was presented by Mr. Liam Walsh, Stipendiary Steward and Ms Cliodhna Guy, IHRB Head of Legal, Licensing & Compliance. Mr. Stack, Mr. Keoghan and Mr. Hayes were represented by Patrick Kennedy of Patrick J. O’Meara & Co. Solicitors, Liberty Square, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Mr. Michael Bell, trainer of The Lir Jet, was represented by Mr. Stephen Lanigan O’Keeffe S.C., instructed by Elisa McMahon of Dundon Callanan Solicitors, 17 The Crescent, Limerick

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