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Galway Hurdle Start Referral - Galway 29th July 2021

The Referrals Committee, Ms. Justice Siobhan Keegan (in the chair), Mr. Anthony Byrne and Mr. N.B. Wachman convened via Zoom on 30th August 2021 to consider the referral of Mr. P.W. Mullins, M.P. O’Connor, S. Fitzgerald, Sam Twiston-Davies, K.C. Sexton, Jack Foley, P. Townend, H. Morgan, J.W. Kennedy, K. Brogan, D.J.O’Keeffe, J.S. McGarvey, Mr. P. Byrnes, S.W. Flanagan, D.F. O’Regan, J.C.Gainford, D. Meyler, M.P. Walsh, S.D. Torrens and L.P. Dempsey following a matter from the Guinness Galway Hurdle which was referred to Mr. Paul Murtagh, INHSC Registrar.

On the day, the Stewards received a report from Mr. P.F. Graffin, IHRB Starter, concerning the conduct of the Riders prior to the running of the Guinness Galway Hurdle. Due to a number of complexities with this case, particularly the number of riders involved, the matter was referred to the Registrar of the INHSC, who having considered it referred the case to the Referrals Committee for their determination.

At the Referral Hearing, evidence was heard from Mr. Graffin, Mr. Patrick Mullins and Mr. Andrew Coonan, representing a number of riders. The committee also viewed a recording of the start of this race.

In his evidence, Mr. Graffin explained that new Starting Protocols had been introduced in July following discussions between the Irish Jockeys Association, the team of IHRB Starters and Mr. Murtagh, INHSC Registrar and Head of Raceday Operations. He said that all Riders were briefed prior to racing at Galway and the Riders in question would have been familiar with the new protocols. Mr. Graffin stated that Denis O’Regan, rider of Tudor City, was a late replacement for Bryan Cooper who had been injured in the previous race. As a result of this, Tudor City and Mr. O’Regan were late to leave the parade ring and get to the Start. Mr. Graffin outlined that even before Mr. O’Regan had arrived at the infield area to have his girths checked, the remaining 19 Riders were already approaching the tape despite the fact he could not raise his flag to signify he was prepared to start the race as one of the runners was not on the racecourse. He stated that all 19 Riders failed to comply with his instructions, and he added that all subsequent issues at the start of this race were as a result of this initial failure to comply with his instructions. He concluded by stating that the Riders were part of the consultation process on bringing in the new protocols and had a great deal of input in their introduction but in this instance the Riders seemed intent to start the race themselves.

In his evidence, Mr. Mullins suggested that, in his opinion, the issue at the Start arose because of the late Rider change and therefore the late arrival at the start of Tudor City and suggested that a consideration be made that in such circumstances horses are retained in the Parade Ring.

In his representations, Mr. Coonan reiterated the evidence of Mr. Graffin that Mr. O’Regan was not involved in the initial instance when the Riders approached the Starter and therefore was not in breach of any rule. Furthermore, he added that the new Starting Protocols were introduced two weeks beforehand and that in general the behaviour among the Riders had been very good and this was a high-pressure situation in which the 19 Riders were trying to do their best by their Owners, Trainers and themselves.

Having considered the evidence, Justice Siobhan Keegan read out the following decision on behalf of the Referrals Committee.

This is a Referrals Hearing in relation to issues at the start of the Guinness Galway Hurdle on 29th July. From the outset we have heard from Mr. Graffin, we have also reviewed the video of events and heard from Mr. Coonan who represents some of the Riders involved. We note the other Riders who have linked into proceedings and some riders are not present, but we are satisfied they have been given notice of this Referral. We are also satisfied that due to Covid restrictions that this matter was referred to the Referrals Committee. The evidence in our view is clear in two respects. Firstly, we don’t feel that a case is being made out against Mr. O’Regan and secondly, in the evidence, the video and the representations made, we feel a clear case has been made out against the 19 other Riders who were in breach of Rule 208(v)(b) which is a failure to comply with any instruction from the Starter. The context for our decision relating to sanction is the evidence we have heard and also having viewed the video we do consider that this was quite a blatant breach of the rule. There is a context as well in relation to this in that the riders were all aware of the new Starting Protocols. We also have to reflect having considered the evidence this wasn’t just one situation of disobeying the Starters orders. It is clear that on a number of occasions Mr. Graffin was issuing instructions that weren’t followed. In a sense, we feel this case comes down to collective disobedience at the Start and we are not going to make a distinction among the Riders for that reason. We do accept that this was an important race but we don’t feel that is a very strong point in mitigation given the responsibilities of the Riders involved. We do also note the point raised by Mr. Mullins with the late change of Rider and the late arrival at the Start and we have taken that into account. We have to consider where this case falls and we have considered it carefully and looked at all the circumstances and hope that this case will form a lesson for all and that it will not be repeated. Given the particular circumstances and that this is a clear breach of collective disobedience we feel that the right sanction is one day for each rider (Mr. P.W. Mullins, M.P. O’Connor, S. Fitzgerald, Sam Twiston-Davies, K.C. Sexton, Jack Foley, P. Townend, H. Morgan, J.W. Kennedy, K. Brogan, D.J.O’Keeffe, J.S. McGarvey, Mr. P. Byrnes, S.W. Flanagan, J.C.Gainford, D. Meyler, M.P. Walsh, S.D. Torrens and L.P. Dempsey).

The case was presented by Mr. Colman Sweeney, Stipendiary Steward. Mr. O’Regan, Mr. Torrens and Mr. Meyler were represented by Mr. Andrew Coonan, Coonan Cawley Solicitors, Naas, County Kildare.

Date Of Suspension: 15th September

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