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James Bowen Referral - Gowran Park, 25th January 2018

The Referrals Committee, Peter N. Reynolds (in the chair), C.P. Magnier and Noel McCaffery met at the offices of the Irish Horse Racing Regulatory Board (IHRB) on Monday 5th February 2018, to consider the referral of James Bowen (Rider), by the Stewards at Gowran Park on 25th January 2018.


On the day the Stewards received a report from Dr. Lynn Hillyer, Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board Veterinary Officer, that she had observed Out Sam (GB), ridden by James Bowen in the Thyestes Handicap Steeplechase, to be marked post-race and confirmed the marks one hour later.


The Stewards were unable to conduct an enquiry as James Bowen has left the racecourse without permission despite being put on notice by Liam Walsh, steward secretary, that he was required to attend an enquiry into the use of his whip in the race and not to leave the track.  As a result, the matter was referred to the Referrals Committee.


Evidence was heard from James Bowen and Dr. Lynn Hillyer.  The Committee also considered written evidence submitted by Gordon Elliott, trainer of Out Sam (GB) and submissions by Andrew Coonan on behalf of James Bowen and Cliodhna Guy on behalf of the IHRB.  The Committee also reviewed film of the race and pictures of the horse taken post-race.


In his evidence, James Bowen dealt with the two issues before the Committee namely his leaving the racecourse prior to the enquiry taking place and the whip incident.


Mr. Bowen said he had been notified that he was required to attend a stewards’ enquiry after the 5th race into his use of the whip.  Due to a backlog of enquiries on the day, Mr. Bowen had still not been called to the stewards’ room by the time the 6th race had started and, as he had a taxi waiting to go to the airport to catch a flight at 6.30pm, he had no option but to leave the racecourse.


In response to questions from Cliodhna Guy, Mr. Bowen accepted that he did not tell the Stewards he was under time pressure and he apologized for the omission.


With regard to the whip incident, Mr. Bowen said that he had only hit the horse on 5 – 6 occasions and couldn’t understand how the horse was marked as he had never marked a horse before, despite the fact that he had over 250 rides since he became a conditional rider in July 2017.  He said he did not hit the horse any harder than normal and suggested that the horse concerned may be thin skinned.


In her evidence Dr. Lynn Hillyer said she examined the horse as he left the track immediately post-race and noted the marks.  She noted that the marks were still clearly evident one hour later, on a subsequent examination and that this was very unusual.


In his written evidence, Gordon Elliott said that the horse was now in perfect condition and attributed the marking to the fact that the horse was clipped on the day before he ran.


In his submission, Andrew Coonan said that James Bowen was a minor and was travelling with his mother on the day in question, and as he had a flight to catch he couldn’t wait for the enquiry.  He said Mr. Bowen had used the same whip in the UK but had never marked a horse before.  He said excessive force was not used.


Having considered the evidence, the Referrals Committee accepted the explanation provided by James Bowen as to why he couldn’t wait for the enquiry and imposed no penalty.  He was however found in breach of Regulation 10 3(f) for hitting the horse with excessive force.  As a result he was suspended for one raceday, Wednesday, 21st February 2018.


The case was presented by Cliodhna Guy, Head of Licensing, Legal and Compliance.  James Bowen was represented by Andrew Coonan, Solicitors, Coonan Cawley, Solicitors, Naas Co. Kildare. 

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