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Luke Comer (Trainer) Referral – Stable Inspections


The Referrals Committee Justice Tony Hunt (in the chair), Philip Caffrey and Laurence McFerran met at the Croke Park Hotel, Jones Road, Dublin 3 on Monday, 3rd July, 2017 to consider the referral of Luke Comer, Trainer, by Denis Egan, Chief Executive of the Turf Club.

The Referral was a result of issues which arose during stable inspections carried out at Mr. Comer’s training establishment on 24th and 26th May and 2nd June, 2017.  These inspections were part of an ongoing process in which the Turf Club have been working with Mr Comer in response to various issues identified earlier in 2017.

The Referrals Committee were asked to consider whether or not Mr. Comer was in breach of the rules listed below for the reasons outlined.

1. Rules 88(iii), 272, 273(x) and 273(xiii) in respect of the provision of misleading and false information regarding the location of three horses during the inspection on May 24th by Mr. Comer’s authorised representatives when Mr. Comer was not present.

2. Rule 148(iv) for failing to exercise adequate supervision over his training operation from January 2017 to date, by reason both of his not being able or capable of doing so due to other commitments and / or by putting in place any management structure with sufficiently qualified and / or able staff to carry out his obligations on his behalf.

3. Rule 148(v)(b) in respect of five riders on May 24th and one rider on June 2nd not wearing body protectors when riding out horses.

4. Rule 148(iii)(a) and / or (b) in respect of the failing to keep the Medicines Register to the required standard.

5. Rule 149(i) and (ii) in respect of failing to register two staff members.

Evidence was heard from Dr. Lynn Hillyer, Chief Turf Club Veterinary Officer and Head of Anti-Doping, Alan Dunlop and Ms. Nicola O’Connor, Turf Club Veterinary Officers, Larry Dunne, Mr. Comer’s attending Veterinary Surgeon, Derek Kelly, Mr. Comer’s Head Lad, Luke Comer and James Gorman.

The committee considered reports of the visits on 24th and 26th May, and 2nd June 2017 submitted by Dr. Lynn Hillyer, Ms. Nicola O’Connor and Alan Dunlop as well as an independent report from  Anthony Stirk, BHA Veterinary Officer on behalf of the Turf Club who was also present at the inspection on 2nd June, 2017.

The committee also considered a number of reports submitted on behalf of Mr. Comer from R.C. Pilsworth Veterinary Surgeon, Newmarket Equine Hospital, John Hanly, Veterinary Surgeon, O’Byrne and Halley Veterinary Practice, Larry Dunne, Veterinary Surgeon, Ballygormley Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Kevin Corley, Veterinary Surgeon, Veterinary Advance and Michael Sadlier, Veterinary Surgeon, Troytown, Grey Abbey Equine Hospital.

Having considered the evidence the Referrals Committee found that Luke Comer was in breach of all the rules specified on the charge sheet namely Rules 88(iii), 272, 273(x), 273(xiii), 148(iv), 148(v)(b), 148(iii)(a) and (b) and 149(i) and (ii).

The following penalties were imposed:
 * Breach of Rule 148(v)(b) - €200 per rider (total €1,000)
 * Breach of Rule 148(iii)(a) and (b) - €1,000
 * Breach of Rule 149(i) and (ii) - €130 per staff member (total €260)

With regard to the charges laid out in points 1 and 2 above, the Referrals Committee found that these were major rule breaches and regarded them as very serious.  They decided to adjourn the decision on appropriate penalty in order to assess whether the operation can be put on a proper footing.  They noted that Mr. Comer had recently employed James Gorman as a trainer and prior to determining the penalty for these breaches, felt that it was appropriate to give Mr. Gorman an opportunity to address matters operationally.  In view of this, they continued the suspension on Mr. Comer’s licence to 31st July, 2017.  They also noted that the Turf Club can continue to inspect Mr. Comer’s training establishment at any time on a ‘without notice’ basis and gave the Turf Club leave to re-enter the matter on 7 days’ notice if any issues arise from such inspections. 

The Referrals Committee adjourned the matter to early November and at that stage they will consider penalties and costs.

The case was presented by Louis Weston, Barrister, instructed by Cliodhna Guy, Turf Club Solicitor.  Luke Comer was represented by Martin Hayden SC and Frank Crean, Barrister, instructed by Andrew Coonan, Coonan Cawley Solicitors, Naas, Co. Kildare.

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