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Michael Joseph Fitzgerald (trainer) Referral

The Referrals Committee, Judge Tony Hunt (in the Chair), John G. Moloney and J.R. Craigie met in the Turf Club, The Curragh, Co. Kildare on 23rd January 2012 to consider the referral of Michael Joseph Fitzgerald (trainer), as result of his refusal to return the passport for Settigano to either Horse Racing Ireland or the Turf Club, having been requested to do so on six separate occasions.  The matter had been referred to the Referrals Committee by Denis Egan, Chief Executive of the Turf Club.

Evidence was heard from Seamus Gibson, Secretary to the Licensing Committee and Michael Joseph Fitzgerald.

In his evidence Seamus Gibson said that he had asked Mr. Fitzgerald on a number of occasions to return the passport but Mr. Fitzgerald refused to do so as he alleged that he was owed money by the owner of Settigano for training fees.  Mr. Gibson noted that the passport is not title to the horse and that the passport must remain with the horse at all times.

Michael Joseph Fitzgerald outlined the background to his refusal to return the passport.  He said that he had trained the horse successfully for the owner with the horse winning over €130,000. He said that the horse left his yard in March 2010 to go and work at the Curragh. It was agreed that the owner would transport the horse to keep expenses down.  However the horse never returned to his care.  He said that he had made a number of efforts to resolve matters with the owner and that he initially used a commercial mediation service but that this was unsuccessful.  He said the alleged debt may now be the subject of court proceedings.  In conclusion Mr. Fitzgerald said that the only hope he had of resolving matters was to hold on to the passport but he now accepted that he would have to return it and had already done so today to Horse Racing Ireland.

Having considered the evidence the Committee noted that the passport has a legal purpose and is used to identify the horse.  It is not a title of ownership and it must always accompany the horse. They said that Mr. Fitzgerald was not entitled to retain the passport.  As such he was found in breach of Regulation R8 and fined €250.  In arriving at the decision the Committee said that in imposing a low fine, they took into account Mr. Fitzgerald’s clean record and a number of mitigating circumstances. However they stated that the fine is lower than will be imposed in subsequent cases now that they have made the position clear. 

The case was presented by Conal Boyce, Wilkinson & Price Solicitors, Naas, Co. Kildare.

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