Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

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Davy Russell (Rider) – Appeal of lenient penalty Tramore 18th August 2017


The Appeals Body, (Division One), Mr. Justice Joseph Finnegan, (in the chair), Mr. Justice Tony Hunt and John Powell, met at the Turf Club, The Curragh on Tuesday, 5th September 2017 to consider the appeal lodged by Josh Byrne, Registrar of the INHS Committee, in accordance with the provisions of Rule 27(i), to review the leniency of the sanction imposed on Davy Russell, Rider, by the Referrals Committee at Killarney on 26th August 2017 following a finding that he was in breach of Rule 272(i).

The rule provides as follows “Any person involved in horseracing who…….whether verbally or by conduct or behaviour, acts in a manner which is prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing (whether or not such behaviour or conduct, verbal or otherwise is associated directly with horseracing) shall be in breach of these Rules and liable to sanction”.

Mr. Russell was found in breach of the rule as a result of an incident which occurred prior to the start of the Flynn Hotel Group Mares Handicap Hurdle at Tramore on 18th August 2017, where he appeared to strike towards the head of his mount Kings Dolly and was sanctioned with a caution.

Evidence was heard from Davy Russell. The Appeals Body also reviewed a transcript of the referral hearing and viewed a film of the incident.

In his evidence, Mr. Russell confirmed the submission he originally made to the Referrals Committee. He also outlined the effect that the incident and media reporting of the incident has had on him and on his family and referred to the tone and content of various media comment.

In arriving at their decision on penalty, the Appeals Body noted that the Referrals Committee had found that a breach of Rule 272(i) had occurred and that the breach related to behaviour which was prejudicial to the proper conduct or good reputation of horse racing as set out in the rule concerned. The Appeals Body expressed the view it was a serious matter to strike a horse particularly in the vicinity of the head and that the incident should not have occurred. It was noted that Mr. Russell had given a frank account of what had happened. The incident and its aftermath had a serious impact on him and his family as well.

The Appeals Body noted similar cases which had been referred to during the hearing and the sanctions that had been imposed in each case including UK cases.
The Appeals Body stated that in the present case they regarded five racedays as an appropriate sanction for such an offence in the middle range and expressed a view that few, if any, cases would merit less but that other cases may merit more. The Appeals Body stated that in arriving at an appropriate penalty, the seriousness of the offence and also to the personal circumstances of the offender, including his disciplinary history will be taken into account. It was noted that the delay in finalising the matter had put additional strain on Mr. Russell and his family but this was not to underplay or mitigate the offence. The Appeals Body imposed a penalty of four racedays (Sept 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 25th). In imposing a penalty at this level, they noted that the loss of four race days can have a significant financial impact on a jockey and should not be viewed as lenient and, in these circumstances, it was decided not to impose a fine in addition to the suspension.

The case was presented to the Committee by Cliodhna Guy, Turf Club Head of Licensing, Legal & Compliance.

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