Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Integrity Portal

Mr. Gavin Dowling (Groom) & Mr. J.G. Coogan (Trainer) Referral – Dundalk 19th February 2021

The Referrals Committee Ms. Justice Leonie Reynolds (in the chair), Mr. Peter M. Allen and Mr. N.B. Wachman convened via Zoom on Monday, 1st March 2021 to consider the referral of Mr. Gavin Dowling (Groom) and Mr. J.G. Coogan (Trainer) by Ms. Cliodhna Guy, Senior Racing Official, following the racemeeting at Dundalk on Friday 19th February 2021.

Subsequent to the racemeeting at Dundalk on Friday, 19th February 2021, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board were made aware that Mr. Dowling had been out of the country and returned to racing to work for Mr. Coogan prior to completing the required period of self-restriction or providing a negative covid test prior to returning to the races. Thus Mr. Dowling had not adhered to the Horse Racing Ireland Protocols for race meetings behind closed doors in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, to obtain a barcode necessary to attend a racemeeting, Mr. Dowling had falsely completed the Health Screening questionnaire on Thursday, 18th February 2021 when he answered ‘No’ to the question of whether he had travelled abroad in the previous 14 days.


Evidence was heard from Dr. Jennifer Pugh, IHRB Senior Medical Officer, Mr. Dowling and Mr. Coogan. The Committee were also provided with the questions and answers that Mr. Dowling submitted to obtain his barcode on 18th February 2021.


In her evidence, Dr. Pugh outlined that Mr. Dowling had taken a covid test 72-hours prior to returning to Ireland and that she had subsequently obtained a copy of this result which was negative. However, she explained that in correspondence with Mr. Dowling she became aware that he was not aware of the requirement to take a further rest after five days back in Ireland. She stated that as the advice continues to change she is in receipt of many phone calls seeking clarification and also that once people correctly complete the health screening questionnaire, their travel outside of Ireland inside 14 days will be highlighted for a further follow up check which unfortunately didn’t happen in this case as Mr. Dowling had answered the relevant question incorrectly.


In his evidence, Mr. Dowling accepted that he had been out of the country and not taken a covid test on the fifth day since his return as he misunderstood the requirements. He also accepted that had he answered the question correctly that Dr. Pugh would have been able to clarify the situation with him in advance of him travelling to Dundalk on the evening in


question. He said that it was just a habit of clicking ‘No’ to the questions on the Health Screening app and it was a mistake he wouldn’t be making again. Mr. Dowling added that he was 100 per cent sorry for his actions and accepted full responsibility.


Mr. Coogan explained that he had a small string of horses and that he would employ Mr. Dowling for race day help on occasion. He was unaware that Mr. Dowling had been out of the country and this wasn’t made clear to him when he rang Mr. Dowling to assist at Dundalk.


Having considered the evidence, the Referrals Committee were satisfied that the conduct of Mr. Dowling was a breach of Rule 272(i) in that he had acted in a manner which was prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing and 272(ii) as he had provided misleading information to a racing official by falsifying the Health Screening Questionnaire. They fined Mr. Dowling €400 and prohibited him from attending any racemeeting under the governance of the IHRB for a period of three months. Furthermore, they were satisfied that there was no breach on behalf of Mr. Coogan but reminded him of his responsibilities when sending staff to the races.


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


Dates of Prohibition from attending Irish racecourses: 14th March 2021 – 14th June 2021

Copyright © 2018, I.H.R.B, All Rights Reserved.