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J.P. O’Brien (Trainer) Handicapping Appeal – Flying Scotsman

The Handicapping Appeals Body, Mr. Stephen Lanigan O’Keeffe (in the chair), Mr. William Flood and Mr. Anthony Byrne convened on Thursday, 23rd September 2021 to consider the Appeal of Joseph O’Brien (Trainer) in relation to the handicapping of Flying Scotsman.

The committee considered the appeal of Mr. O’Brien and submissions from Mr. Garry O’Gorman, IHRB Senior Flat Handicapper.

In lodging the appeal, Mr. O’Brien outlined his dissatisfaction at the fact that Flying Scotsman had run in the Class Grass Handicap at Roscommon on 30th August 2021 off a rating of 83 and was restored to his former rating of 85 thereafter. In Mr. O’Brien’s view the horse had demonstrated in Roscommon that he could not be competitive off his rating of 83. Furthermore, Mr. O’Brien stated that when Flying Scotsman was entered to run in a race at The Curragh, he was under the belief that the horse was rated 83, Flying Scotsman subsequently didn’t take up the engagement at The Curragh due to his rating being restored to 85 and a submission was made for the owners of the horse to be reimbursed the €1,000 entry fee for that race. 

In his submissions, Mr. O’Gorman outlined the events which had led to Flying Scotsman running at Roscommon when rated 83 and then being returned to his rating of 85. Mr. O’Gorman stated that in recent years the IHRB Handicapping team has instituted general interim drops in the rating levels of Flat handicap horses during the season. He confirmed that the general drop to the ratings was due to take place on 25th August 2021 and this was done in conjunction with the IT Department of Horse Racing Ireland. The drop in handicap ratings (2lbs) on this date was to be confined, inter alia, to horses who had raced only on the Flat in Ireland during 2021 and excluded horses who had raced exclusively over jumps during that period. These criteria therefore excluded Flying Scotsman from the automated drop in rating. Mr. O’Gorman added that on the same day (25th August) that this automated drop was due to take place, Flying Scotsman was entered for a Premier Handicap at The Curragh on 12th September at 11.55am and the Class Grass Handicap at Roscommon on 30th August at 11.56am.

At the time of entry, the horse had a current rating of 85 for both races as the automated drop had not come into effect at this point. At 1.34pm Mr. O’Gorman authorised the IT Department of Horse Racing Ireland to implement the general drop followed by regenerating the entries for Roscommon which had just closed. At 3.32pm the regeneration of entries for Roscommon was confirmed with Flying Scotsman erroneously appearing as being rated 83 and at 3.33pm the entries for the early closing Premier Handicap at the Curragh were sent to the IHRB Handicappers with Flying Scotsman again appearing as being rated 83. At 7.46pm, following a manual review of the various Handicap files, 177 updates to ratings were processed essentially undoing the automated drop which had occurred less than five hours previously in relation to certain horses including Flying Scotsman.

Mr. O’Gorman explained that a number of criteria were given to the IT Department of Horse Racing Ireland ahead of the automated drop in rating and that Flying Scotsman, along with two other horses entered for a Premier Handicap at The Curragh, had been subject to the drop in error due to a proviso which stated “If a horse holds a current engagement for a future race (Flat or National Hunt) they will be excluded from the archive process”. He added that this proviso will be deleted from the process going forward. Mr. O’Gorman confirmed that the weights for the Roscommon fixture were authorised at 10.59am on 26th August but that he had regrettably failed to ask Horse Racing Ireland to regenerate the Roscommon entries once again following the update of the previous evening. If this had occurred Flying Scotsman would have been restored to a rating of 85 but because it didn’t Flying Scotsman remained at the wrong rating of 83 for the Roscommon race.  

Mr. O’Gorman confirmed that the day after Flying Scotsman had raced at Roscommon. he was confirmed as 85 (which was his rating at time of entry) for the Premier Handicap at The Curragh and this was reflected at the time the weights were issued. In relation to the point made by Mr. O’Brien that Flying Scotsman had demonstrated that he could not be competitive off a rating of 83, Mr. O’Gorman explained that a number of factors about the Roscommon race such as the shorter distance, ground conditions and the absence of cheek-pieces being applied in addition to a post-race report from jockey Wayne Lordan that his mount “never travelled” meant the IHRB Handicapping team felt it was inappropriate at this juncture to drop his rating in light of all these circumstances despite the horse having finishing last.

Having considered the evidence, the Handicapping Appeals Committee issued the following decision:

The purpose of the meeting was to consider and determine an Appeal by Joseph O’Brien in relation to the handicapping of Flying Scotsman. The Panel carefully considered the detailed and helpful Submissions made by Joseph O’Brien and the response of the official Handicapper, and determined as follows.

  1. The correct handicap-mark of Flying Scotsman when he ran at Roscommon was 85.
  2. Due to an unfortunate systems-anomaly, Flying Scotsman ran at Roscommon off 83.
  3. This anomaly was subsequently corrected, and Flying Scotsman and another horse which ran in the same race were restored to their correct marks.
  4. In those circumstances, the only remaining issue for the Committee to consider was as to whether Flying Scotsman should have been dropped on the basis-of and following his run at Roscommon. The Handicapper has provided a detailed explanation of his reasons for not dropping Flying Scotsman following his run at Roscommon, and the Committee find those reasons compelling.
  5. The Appeal is therefore disallowed, and Flying Scotsman’s handicap-mark of 85 remains.

A secondary-issue raised on the Appeal relates to the entry-fee paid for Flying Scotsman in relation to a premier handicap at The Curragh. The Committee have concluded that it does not have any jurisdiction in relation to this matter, and therefore the Committee can make no determination in relation to this aspect of the Appeal.


  • The Handicapping Appeals Body remit is limited to handicapping marks and do not have the jurisdiction to deal with refunds of entry fees in this nature. However, in this instance, as the horse was rated 85 at the time of entry, which was confirmed by Horse Racing Ireland, there was no basis for refund of that entry fee as part of this appeal.

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