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Joseph Patrick O’Brien (Trainer), Prohibited Substance Referral – Gowran Park, 15th August, 2018


The Referrals Committee, Mr. Justice Tony Hunt (in the chair), Mr. Justice Raymond Groarke and Mr. Philip Caffrey convened in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15 on Wednesday 19th December 2018, to consider reports from LGC Laboratories, Cambridgeshire, UK, that the Sample taken from Pedisnap following her win in the Golf Membership Gowran Apprentice Handicap at Gowran Park on the 15th August, 2018, was found to contain cobalt. Under Rule 20(v) of the Rules of Racing, cobalt is a prohibited substance when present in concentrations above the international threshold of 100 ng/ml as set out in Rule 20(v) and Regulation 14 of the Rules of Racing and the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules.

The trainer, Mr. O’Brien requested that the “B” portion of the Sample be tested and the results of the analysis carried out at Laboratoire des Courses Hippiques, Paris, France, confirmed the findings in the “A” portion of the sample.

Evidence was heard from Dr. Lynn Hillyer, IHRB Chief Veterinary Officer/Head of Anti-Doping regarding the investigation into the adverse analytical finding. The Committee also noted an expert report from Professor. Stuart Paine, University of Nottingham.

In her evidence, Dr. Hillyer noted that samples of all feedstuffs and supplements provided to the horses had been retained by Mr. O’Brien which enabled analysis of same during the investigation. She advised that consultation with Mr. O’Brien during the investigation had resulted in the likely source of the cobalt being identified as the “salt lick” which Pedisnap had been exposed to on a daily basis including the day of the race. Analysis of a sample of a “salt lick” from the same manufacturer had corroborated that it contained cobalt at a concentration sufficient to result in the adverse analytical finding in Professor Paine’s expert view. The professional approach of the trainer to the investigation was commended by Dr. Hillyer.

Having considered the evidence the Committee were satisfied that Mr. O’Brien was in breach of Rule 96(a). They disqualified Pedisnap, ordered that the stake be forfeited and amended the result of the race to read as follows:-

 First:               Lizard Point

Second:            Royal Admiral

Third:               Lady de Vesci

Fourth:             Hawthorn Echo

Fifth:                Galtymore

In considering penalty the Committee noted that the Trainer had provided full cooperation to the investigation and it was accepted that there was insufficient information available to the Trainer regarding the ingredients of the “salt lick”. They imposed a fine of €1,000 however waived it under the provisions of Rule 96(a) as they were satisfied that the Trainer had taken all reasonable precautions to avoid a breach of the rule and that the substance had been administered unknowingly.

Mr. Joseph O’Brien was represented by Frank Crean B.L instructed by Denis A. Linehan, of Denis A. Linehan & Co., Solicitors, Charleville, Co. Cork.

The case was presented by Cliodhna Guy, Head of Legal, Licensing & Compliance.

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