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Mrs. Jessica Harrington (Trainer) Referral – Galway 27th July 2021

The Referrals Committee, Ms. Justice Siobhan Keegan (in the chair), Mr. Anthony Byrne and Mr. N.B. Wachman convened via Zoom on 30th August 2021 to consider the referral of Mrs. Jessica Harrington (Trainer) following an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Aurora Princess running in the Colm Quinn BMW Irish EBF Fillies Maiden at Galway on Tuesday 27th July purporting to be Alizarine (GB).

On the day, Alizarine (GB), trained by Mrs. Harrington, was declared to run in the Colm Quinn BMW Irish EBF Fillies Maiden and Aurora Princess, also trained by Mrs. Harrington was declared to run in the Handicap. Following the running of the Colm Quinn BMW Irish EBF Fillies Maiden, the Stewards considered an objection by IHRB Veterinary Officer, Ms. Nicola O’Connor under Rule 262(iv)(c) into the identity of the winner Alizarine (GB) as the winners microchip number did not correspond to that of Alizarine (GB) and it was in fact Aurora Princess. In the enquiry, Mrs. Harrington accepted the facts given by the IHRB Veterinary Officer and accepted full responsibility for the error. As Alizarine (GB) did not run in this race, the Stewards on the day disqualified Aurora Princess as the horse purported to be Alizarine (GB) and amended the result.

At the Referral Hearing, evidence was heard from Mrs. Harrington and the panel also noted correspondence including an investigation report compiled by Mr. Chris Gordon, IHRB Head of Security.

The investigation report featured interviews with Mrs. Harrington, Trainer, in the company of her daughter Ms. Emma Harrington, Mr. Niall Amond, Travelling Head Lad, Mr. Caolan Byrne, Groom, in the company of Ms. Emma Harrington, Mr. Eamonn Leigh, Head Lad, in the company of Ms. Emma Harrington, Mr. Eddie Tobin, Assistant Yard Manager, in the company of Ms. Emma Harrington, Mr. Shane Foley, Rider and reports from Ms. Carol Murphy, IHRB Veterinary Assistant, Mr. Derek Cullen, IHRB Veterinary Assistant, Mr. Brendan Daly, IHRB Security Official and Ms. Nicola O’Connor, IHRB Veterinary Officer. 

Mr. Amond explained how he had brought the seven horses declared to run that day to the races and that the four grooms attending on behalf of Mrs. Harrington had followed him by car. He outlined the timeline for his arrival and that the grooms had assisted him with taking the horses off the lorry and then had been microchipped on arrival into the stable yard. He said that the groom Caolan Byrne was working at the races for the first time and was being guided through the process by Eddie Tobin. He stated that he was responsible for saddling Alizarine (GB) for the second race and when he returned with the saddle after Shane Foley weighed out that the horse was presented to him in their stable with the bridle on. He said that he had never seen Alizarine (GB) prior to this as it was her debut and he had never travelled her previously but had no reason to think it wasn’t her. Mr. Amond said he was unaware of any identity issue until he was about to saddle a runner in the third race and Mr. Cullen informed him that the microchip being read on the winner of Race Two was that of Aurora Princess and not Alizarine (GB). He concluded that this was just a freak accident.

Mr. Byrne stated that this was his first day working at the races and he was being shadowed by Mr. Tobin who was explaining to him the duties carried out. He said that when they got the horses off the lorry and settled into the yard they then proceeded to groom the horses. Mr. Byrne explained that he was leading up Alizarine (GB) and that she was being saddled in the stableyard rather than the pre-parade ring due to this being her first run. When the time approached to get Alizarine (GB) ready for the race Mr. Byrne said they finished grooming the horses for later races and mistakenly entered the stable of Aurora Princess. Mr. Amond brought down the saddle and it is now clear that they had gone into the wrong stable which only became apparent after the race when the microchip being read was that of Aurora Princess. 

Mr. Tobin recalled that he was responsible for Aurora Princess and that Mr. Byrne was leading up Alizarine (GB). On the day the two fillies were stabled next door to each other at the races. He confirmed that when the time came to put the bridle on Alizarine (GB) it is now clear that they entered the wrong stable and mistakenly put the bridle and saddle on Aurora Princess. Mr. Tobin explained that once the horse was saddled he remained in the stableyard with the other runners. He said his heart sunk when the error was discovered after the race as it is not something he would usually miss. He said they are two very similar fillies and that you wouldn’t tell the difference especially in the stable where it can be quite dark.

Mr. Leigh said that he was predominately there on the day to help with three runners in a later race and as back up to the team of grooms that were there but he had not been in the stableyard prior to the second race. He said he just gave Shane Foley a leg up in the parade ring but didn’t notice anything unusual. He stated his main role on the day was to the assist with saddling the horses in a later race when Mrs. Harrington had three runners and he was tasked to apply some tongue-ties and head gear.

Mr. Foley explained how both Aurora Princess and Alizarine (GB) were very similar fillies. He said that on his way to the start and in the early part of the race he felt that Alizarine (GB) showed a typical greenness associated with a two-year-old making their debut but that he now knows that it was indeed Aurora Princess and he attributed the apparent greenness to the fact that Aurora Princess was without the blinkers she usually wears and therefore was looking around and shying away from things as a two-year-old might. He said he wasn’t aware of anything until he was going into the Parade Ring for the following race when he was told and it came as a huge shock to him.

Ms. Murphy’s report confirmed that she had microchipped Alizarine (GB) and identified her markings on arrival before Ms. Joan Taylor, IHRB Veterinary Officer, checked her legs and the filly was then presented for trotting up to Ms. Nicola O’Connor.

Mr. Daly’s report outlined that his duty was to scan the winner of Race Two on the day and when he did this the number on the scanner did not correspond with his documentation. He said he repeated the process and when this still did not correspond he contacted the Clerk of the Scales assistant, Mr. Tony Mulraney, to inform him there would be delay while he presented the horse to Mr. Cullen at the IHRB Veterinary Unit. At this point it became apparent that the horse that had run in Race Two was Aurora Princess and not Alizarine (GB).

Mr. Cullen’s report confirmed that Mr. Daly presented the horse to him for post-race testing but also informed him of the issue in positively identifying the winner of the race. Mr. Cullen confirmed that he used the EScanner which confirmed that the horse was indeed Aurora Princess. He repeated this a number of times in the presence of Mr. Amond and then proceeded to where Mrs. Harrington’s other horses were stabled to confirm the identity of Alizarine (GB) who was still in her stable. At this point he informed Ms. O’Connor, IHRB Veterinary Officer.

Ms. Connor’s report confirmed that Mr. Cullen had informed her of the situation that the winner of Race Two had been discovered as Aurora Princess on the EScanner. She confirmed this on her own EScanner and relayed this information to Stipendiary Steward, Mr. Michael O’Donoghue. She then outlined the evidence at the subsequent Stewards Enquiry.

In her evidence at the Referral Hearing, Mrs. Harrington accepted that she was fully responsible for the error which occurred on the day when Aurora Princess and Alizarine (GB) were mixed up and Aurora Princess ran as Alizarine (GB) and for this she was wholly apologetic. She stated it was indefensible and it was an error that shouldn’t have happened on her watch as responsibility lies with the Trainer. She stated that despite a willingness to do everything correctly there is still human error and that is what happened in this instance. 

Having considered the evidence, Justice Siobhan Keegan read out the following decision on behalf of the Referrals Committee.

This is a Referrals Hearing in relation to the issue surrounding the running of Aurora Princess at Galway on 27th July 2021, Aurora Princess being a three-year-old filly and stablemate of Alizarine (GB), a two-year-old filly who was declared for the Colm Quinn BMW Irish EBF Fillies Maiden. Both horses are trained by Mrs. Harrington. Aurora Princess won the race in question and was subsequently disqualified by the Stewards. Having read the investigation report it effectively points out the issue that the wrong horse was saddled and ran in the race. Helpfully at the outset and indeed a strong characteristic of this case is that responsibility was accepted by Mrs. Harrington from the outset and thereafter the matter was rightly referred on by the Stewards. We have determined that there has been a clear breach of Rule 261 and we have considered the issue of sanction. In reaching our conclusion, we do say at the outset that this is a serious matter in the context of racing and it has obviously drawn some attention. This case, we hope, will lead to a proper appreciation of how racing should be conducted. There is no precedent case in Ireland and we have heard about other cases but each case will turn on its own facts. Mrs. Harrington has essentially said that this is a case of human error and we understand and accept that but nonetheless we want to reiterate that stable staff should be fully educated for this type of circumstance not to arise again. We are sure that processes in this stable and other stables will be looked at, put in place and reiterated. In all the circumstances we have taken into account all the facts and the responsibility which has been accepted by the Trainer from the outset, that the fine in this case be €2,000.

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

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