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W.J. Lee (Rider) Referral – Roscommon 15th June 2020

The Referrals Committee Mr. Robert Dore (in the chair), Mr. N.P. Lambert and Mr. Neil McGrath convened at the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB), Co. Kildare on 26th June 2020 to consider a request by the Keeper of the Match Book, Mr. Denis Egan, under Rule 27(i), to review the sanction of a penalty of two racedays imposed on W.J. Lee (Rider) for careless riding following the running of the Roscommon Maiden at Roscommon on 15th June 2020 on the basis that the penalty imposed was unduly lenient.


On the day, the Stewards found W.J. Lee in breach of Rule 214, in that he had ridden carelessly and suspended him for two racedays. The grounds of the request by Mr. Egan were that, significant interference was caused by Strongbowe, ridden by Mr. Lee, drifting across the track in the latter stages of the race which resulted in Mudlahhim, ridden by S.T. McCullagh, clipping heels and falling, which in turn also resulted in Silk Air, ridden by D.W. O’Connor, being brought down. In the request, it was also noted that Mr. Lee did not appear to take reasonable measures to prevent his mount from drifting across Mudlahhim which caused the incident.


Evidence was heard from Mr. Egan, Mr. Lee, Mr. McCullagh, Mr. O’Connor, Mr. Ronan Whelan (Rider) and Mr. Ben Coen (Rider). The Referrals Committee also watched a recording of the race.


In his evidence, Mr. Egan outlined his grounds for appealing the sanction imposed on the day. He acknowledged Mr. Lee’s good disciplinary record in this regard but added that taking into account the nature of the incident and the consequences of what had occurred the penalty imposed of two racedays was unduly lenient.


Evidence was heard from Mr. McCullagh who recalled that the incident happened very quickly but he remembered giving Mr. Lee a shout prior to the incident but his mount, Mudlahhim, clipped the heels of Mr. Lee’s mount, Strongbowe, and came down which he felt was due to pressure from his outside.


Mr. Whelan stated that his mount, Blue Wood, shifted slightly off the rail in the closing stages before the incident and that his mount edging left ‘shut the door’ on Mr. McCullagh and Mudlahhim and was a slight factor in what was a very unfortunate incident.


Mr. O’Connor outlined how his mount, Silk Air, has vision in just one eye and he was concentrating on keeping his horse balanced when the incident happened. He stated that he couldn’t offer any reasons for what had led to the incident.


Evidence was also heard from Mr. Coen who detailed that he was following Mr. Whelan into the home straight and was just trying to pass Mr. Whelan as the incident occurred. He noted that he only suffered minor interference.


Mr. Lee informed the Committee that Strongbowe was an inexperienced horse having just his second start having previously suffered from a knee injury. He stated that he was making his challenge on the outside of Mr. McCullagh and that due to his inexperience and the make-up of the track Strongbowe began rolling towards the inside rail once he was gone clear of Mr. McCullagh’s horse. He said that he was surprised to be informed that there were fallers in the race on pulling up. While watching a recording of the race Mr. Lee suggested that he was unable to switch his whip to his right hand as he would then not have full control of the horse for a few important strides which could have made the situation worse and he added that the slight move left of Mr. Whelan’s mount had taken away any margin of error for Mr. McCullagh. Mr. Lee accepted that he took limited corrective action to avoid the incident occurring but stressed that the incident was unintentional.


Having considered the evidence the Committee accepted that what occurred was unintentional but found that the sanction imposed on Mr. Lee had been unduly lenient and following submissions regarding sanctions and taking Mr. Lee’s good record into account, they increased the suspension imposed from two days to five days.


The case was presented by Liam Walsh, Stewards Secretary and Cliodhna Guy, Head of Legal, Licensing & Compliance. Mr. Lee was represented by Patrick Kennedy of Patrick J. O’Meara & Co. Solicitors, Liberty Square, Thurles, Co Tipperary.


Suspension Dates: 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 15th July 2020.

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