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Joseph Patrick O'Brien (Trainer) Referral - Down Royal, 7th Sept, 2018

The Referrals Committee, Mr. N.B. Wachman, (in the Chair), Mrs. J.O. Onions and Mr. Joseph M. McGrath met at the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB), The Curragh, Co. Kildare on Monday, 22nd October 2018 to consider the referral of Joseph Patrick O’Brien, Trainer by the Stewards at Down Royal on 7th September 2018.

On the day following the running of the J C Halliday and Sons Nursery Handicap (Plus 10 Race), the Stewards wished to enquire into the apparent improvement in form of Colfer Me, trained by Mr. O’Brien, placed first, compared with his most recent run at the Curragh on 25th August 2018 where he finished 22nd of 25 runners beaten 27 lengths to Ten Sovereigns. Having heard evidence from the IHRB Senior Flat Handicapper, Mr Garry O’Gorman that the run at Down Royal represented an improvement of approximately 42lb over the horse’s previous run and in the absence of an Authorised Representative to act on behalf of Mr. O’Brien as required under Rule 147(v), the Stewards referred the matter to the Referrals Committee.

Evidence was heard from Mr. O’Gorman and Mr. O’Brien. The Referrals Committee also viewed a recording of Colfer Me’s previous run at the Curragh on 25th August 2018.

In his evidence Mr. O’Gorman referred to the horse’s previous runs prior to Down Royal and said that the horse’s best run (on which he was handicapped) was at Galway on 3rd August 2018. He then referred to the Curragh race and said that Colfer Me ran way below his rating in that race which was over 6 furlongs and that his winning run at Down Royal represented an improvement in the region of 42lbs. He noted that the horse’s best run at Galway was over 7 furlongs which was the distance of the Down Royal race. Mr. O’Gorman stated that he had no issue with the way the horse was ridden at the Curragh, but the run appeared too bad to be true.

Mr. O’Gorman referred to the betting trends which had been investigated and noted that the horse had been backed from 14/1 overnight into 4/1 favourite at Down Royal. However, he stated that the investigation into the betting trends had established that the amounts bet on Colfer Me which led to the price reduction were not substantial.

In his evidence Mr. O’Brien went through each of Colfer Me’s four runs in detail. He said that the rider told him after the Galway run on soft ground that the horse needed better ground. Mr. O’Brien said that the horse was unable to keep up in the Curragh race which he described as a high-class maiden that was won by one of the best two-year old’s in Europe, Ten Sovereigns. He said he ran the horse at the Curragh as he needed better ground.

Having considered the evidence the Referrals Committee found that there was no breach of rule.

The Referrals Committee then considered evidence regarding the failure to nominate an Authorised Representative which necessitated the apparent improvement in form being referred to the Referrals Committee.

In his evidence Mr. O’Brien said he was not at the meeting and received a call from Michael O’Donoghue, Stipendiary Steward to ascertain who was representing him. Mr. O’Brien said it had not crossed his mind that Kieran Murphy, who is one of Mr. O’Brien’s Authorised Representatives was present and when he remembered he tried unsuccessfully to contact Mr. O’Donoghue to inform him. The Referrals Committee noted the documentary evidence produced which confirmed that Mr. Murphy was in attendance.

Having considered the evidence and in the absence of any evidence that the Stewards had called Mr. O’Brien or his Authorised Representative to attend the enquiry, the Referrals Committee found that Mr. O’Brien was not in breach of any rule.

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

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