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Mr. Ben Arbib (Owner) Appeal – The Curragh 1st July 2023

The Appeals Body, Mr. Nick Wachman (Chair), Mr. Peter Law and Mr. Anthony Byrne convened at the Offices of the IHRB on Tuesday 11th July 2023 to consider the appeal of Mr. Ben Arbib, owner of Stay Alert (GB) against the decision of the Stewards at the Curragh on the 1st July 2023.  

On the day, following the running of the Yulong Pretty Polly Stakes, the Raceday Stewards enquired into possible interference in the final furlong involving Above The Curve (USA), ridden by R.L Moore, placed third, Rosscarbery (GER), ridden by W.J Lee, placed fourth, Stay Alert (GB), ridden by R.P Whelan, placed second, and Via Sistina, ridden by J.P Spencer, placed first, where it appeared Via Sistina shifted onto Rosscarbery (GER), who in turn shifted on to Stay Alert (GB). Having viewed the recording of the race and considered the evidence, the Raceday Stewards were of the opinion that while Via Sistina had caused interference to Rosscarbery (GER) she did not improve her finishing position as a result of this interference, therefore no alteration to the judges placings was made.

 The grounds of appeal lodged on behalf of Mr. Ben Arbib, owner of Stay Alert, were that:

  1. Spencer’s riding was “Dangerous” and so his mount, Via Sistina, should be disqualified.
  2. The interference caused by Via Sistina, placed first, improved her position over the second, Stay Alert, therefore the placings should be reversed.

 At the Appeal Hearing, evidence was heard from Mr. Hughie Morrison, Trainer of Stay Alert, Ronan Whelan, Rider of Stay Alert and Jamie Spencer, Rider of Via Sistina. The Committee also watched a recording of the race.

In his evidence Mr. Morrison noted that from the turn into the straight both Via Sistina and Stay Alert were at the back of the field and both horses appeared to be travelling well. He observed that Via Sistina pulled out to the outside and Stay Alert stayed inside of her. In terms of interference, Mr. Morrison stated that Stay Alert had a wide open space to go through just over a furlong out which Mr. Whelan was entitled to take and Mr. Spencer on the outside can see that Stay Alert is going just as easy as him if not better. Mr. Morrison said that Mr. Spencer and Via Sistina then came across and seriously endangered Rosscarbery and as a consequence Stay Alert. He felt this was a dangerous manoeuvre by Mr. Spencer as he took his hands of the rein and failed to make sufficient efforts to straighten his horse until well after the interference had taken place. Mr. Morrison added that Via Sistina was obviously hanging to the right, as was admitted by Mr. Spencer in the initial Stewards Enquiry, and what he should have done was to keep both hands on the reins, but he failed to do that. Mr. Morrison stated that from the drone footage about two furlongs out, you can see that Stay Alert is only a neck behind Via Sistina and at the point of interference it is about a head, while at at the 50 yard marker it is over two lengths of a gap. Mr. Morrison suggested on the basis of mathematics the horse was beaten two lengths, while the drone illustrates clearly that Stay Alert lost in excess of the two lengths she was beaten by the winner.

In his evidence, Mr. Whelan explained that his instructions were to ride Stay Alert cold and for luck. He said that when they turned in both his mount and Mr. Spencer’s mount were upsides, but Mr. Spencer went out and he kept in for a bit of luck. Mr. Whelan stated that he was nursing his filly and hadn’t gone for everything as he tried to calculate what gap he was going to take. Mr. Whelan said that coming up to the gap he asked his mount to quicken for what he felt like at the time was a winning run and tried to ride her like she was ridden when she won at Newbury and showed an electric turn of foot. Mr. Whelan felt that just prior to the interference he was really starting to quicken before his run got stopped. Mr. Whelan said that once he knew he had got up for second place he eased his mount close to the finish.

In his evidence, Mr. Spencer confirmed that it was always his intention to give his mount plenty of room on the outside so that she could get rolling and get into top stride, as the way the track was riding on the day with a strong tail wind and drying conditions were making it difficult to make up ground. Mr. Spencer outlined that he had partnered Via Sistina five times and this was the first time that she had ever leaned to the right. Mr. Spencer suggested that as her other runs were on softer ground that once the pace increased it was possibly the drier ground that had caused her to lean right on this occasion. Mr. Spencer explained that he put his weight onto his left rein and used his whip for two corrective measures down the shoulder while keeping her off the other horses as best as he could. Mr. Spencer stated that safety is paramount to him and that his intention was to prevent interference and his body language proved that. He concluded that it was his opinion there was nothing else he could do to keep his filly any straighter.

Having considered the evidence the Appeals Body were satisfied that while interference had occurred, Via Sistina had not improved her placing as a result and therefore dismissed the appeal.

The appeal was presented by Mr. Hugh Morrison, Trainer of Stay Alert, on behalf of Mr. Ben Arbib, Owner. Mrs. R. G. Hillen, Owner of Via Sistina and Mr. Spencer were represented by Mr. Stephen Lanigan O’Keeffe, S.C., instructed by Andrew Coonan of Coonan Cawley Solicitors. The IHRB was represented by Ms. Clíodhna Guy, IHRB Head of Legal, Licensing and Compliance and Mr. Colman Sweeney, IHRB Stipendiary Steward.

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