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Thomas McCourt (Trainer) Appeal - Curragh, 13 October 2015


Thomas McCourt (Trainer) Appeal
Curragh - 13th October 2015
Curragh 2016 Starts 20th March Handicap (Rated 47-70)

The Appeals Body (Division Two) M.C. Hickey (in the chair), P.J.A. O’Connor and Laurence McFerran met at the Turf Club, The Curragh, Co Kildare on Thursday, 22nd October 2015 to consider the appeal of Thomas McCourt (Trainer) of Clear Focus, against the decision of the Stewards at The Curragh on 13th October 2015. On the day the Stewards reversed the placings of Clear Focus (first past the post) and Oliveraie (GB) (second past the post) as they were satisfied that Clear Focus had improved her placing over Oliveraie (GB) by causing him interference.

The grounds of appeal were that Clear Focus did not improve her position as a result of causing interference.

Evidence was heard from Killian Leonard, rider of Clear Focus, Thomas McCourt and Pat Smullen, rider of Oliveraie (GB). Film of the race was viewed.

In his evidence Killian Leonard said his instructions were to break smartly, lead the field and stay going. He said the race went to plan and he let his filly quicken at the two furlong marker. He accepted that he caused interference about 200 yards out and intimidation around 150 yards from the finishing line but there was no interference after that. He said his horse was pulling away at the finish and that the best horse won. He said he fully accepted he broke the rules, which was why he did not appeal the two day riding ban imposed for careless riding, but what occurred did not affect the result. He also submitted that Pat Smullen’s mount (Oliveraie (GB)) started to drift to the left before any interference was caused and his horse followed him across. He said he accepted that Pat Smullen’s mount had lost ground as a result of the interference that was caused.

In his evidence Tom McCourt described Clear Focus as a very genuine horse that stays on well. He confirmed the instructions given to Killian Leonard.

Mr McCourt referred to the interference and said in his view Pat Smullen’s mount was drifting independently anyway before any interference was caused. Mr McCourt also referred to the fact that most horses in the race drifted left in the latter stages of the race and it was unlikely that Pat Smullen’s mount would have kept straight even if no interference was caused. He submitted that Pat Smullen never had to stop riding and the winning distance of a half a length was critical as he would have understood why the placings were altered if the distance was less. He accepted there was contact on two occasions which he described as Clear Focus brushing off Oliveraie (GB). He accepted Oliveraie (GB) changed his legs when the first bump took place.

In his evidence Pat Smullen said Oliveraie (GB) joined Clear Focus about a furlong out and he held his horse together as he did not want to hit the front too soon. He said he was carried off a true line and that the second incident was the deciding factor, as Oliveraie (GB) got a hefty bump at that stage. He said his mount slowed down underneath him after the bump and could never recover the lost ground. He also said he put his whip down about 7 strides before the line which was why the winning distance was a half a length. He said that once the second bump occurred his horse was all at sea and his chance of winning was gone due to the momentum lost. He concluded by saying he suffered interference from the furlong pole to the finishing line and that took away his winning chance. In his view Oliveraie (GB) was the best horse and would have won but for the interference caused.

Having considered the evidence, the Appeals Body dismissed the appeal and confirmed the original result of the race, as amended by the Stewards on the day to read as follows:
First: Oliveraie (GB)
Second: Clear Focus
Third: Tsar Paul
Fourth: Hatton Cross

The Appeals Body ordered that the appeal deposit be refunded.

The case was presented by Paul Murtagh, stipendiary steward. Thomas McCourt was represented by Patrick Ward, Frank Ward & Co., Solicitors, Dublin 7. David Marnane (trainer of Oliveraie (GB)) was represented by Andrew Coonan, Coonan Cawley Solicitors, Naas, Co Kildare.

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