Turf Club unveil changes to running and riding rules

Irish Jockeys Association wants ‘non-trier’ cases automatically referred to HQ

Former champion jockey Barry Geraghty successfully appealed against a 30-day ban last April. Photograph: PA.

Former champion jockey Barry Geraghty successfully appealed against a 30-day ban last April. Photograph: PA.

 

The Irish Jockeys Association has given a cautious welcome to significant new changes in racing’s running and riding rules but stressed it believes “non-trier” cases should not be dealt with by race-day stewards but instead be automatically referred to Turf Club HQ for greater examination.

On Wednesday the Turf Club published its new running and riding rules. They will come into force on Friday week.

A major new element to the new rules is an obligation that every horse is “seen, to a reasonable and informed member of the racing public, to have run on its merits” and that each horse in each race is “seen” to be given a full opportunity to achieve its best possible placing.

Such a move puts an onus on jockeys to be seen to try and secure that placing.

“Anything that prevents wrongdoing and protects integrity has to be welcomed. And will the expansion of Rule 212 benefit that? Yes, it probably will. In many ways the new steps are not hugely different to what already exist in the UK,” said Andrew Coonan, secretary of the Irish Jockeys Association.

However Coonan is concerned that implementing “non-trier” regulations places undue demands on race-day stewards already under pressure with other administrative duties.

‘Ample evidence’

“We had ample evidence in two cases in 2016 where significant penalties were eventually overturned on appeal after new aspects of the cases that were not obvious to stewards on the day emerged.

“So I would have concerns that stewards, in the heated atmosphere of a racecourse, and when they already have so much to do, shouldn’t have that pressure in such a short time frame.

“They have enough to do on a raceday and these Rule 212 offences can be complicated. They require everyone to sit down with cool heads and examine the facts, look at past performances, or consult the handicapper: I don’t think that can be done adequately in the timeframe of a raceday.

“My preference in suspected Rule 212 cases is that they would be referred automatically. I feel this is in the best interests of both the stewards and the accused. It would be safer for all parties,” Coonan added.     

Another change to Rule 212 is in relation to a new provision for dealing with possible breaches of rules different to the ones initially under consideration.

The maximum fine that can be imposed in future is increased from €6,000 to €10,000 and the maximum suspension on a horse is increased from 60 days to 90 days.

The rule alterations come on the back of a number of high-profile cases of horses and jockeys being suspended, and trainers fined, in relation to breaches of the “non-trier” rules.

Last April, former champion jockey Barry Geraghty successfully appealed against a 30-day ban he picked up for riding the JP McManus-owned Noble Emperor at Limerick earlier that month.

Banned from racing

Noble Emperor was originally banned from racing for 60 days while the horse’s trainer, Tony Martin, was fined €3,000. All penalties were dropped on appeal to the Referrals Committee who concluded that Noble Emperor had achieved its best possible placing given the circumstances of the race.

In July another Referrals Committee panel confirmed a 42-day ban on the Martin-trained Pyromaniac, owned by Newtown Anner Stud, after the horse had run at Killarney.

However the penalty was delivered under a different clause of Rule 212 to the one the horse was originally penalised under by raceday stewards.

A High Court “stay” allowed Pyromaniac run in the Galway Hurdle and the horse has run three more times subsequently.

It was confirmed at the weekend that the matter has now been resolved with the Turf Club paying legal costs on both sides. It is understood the step was necessary since the Referrals Committee was not entitled to impose what was effectively a new penalty after the original suspension was lifted.

It was another blow to the authority of racing’s integrity body which has come under pressure in recent years in relation to a number of issues in relation to its policing of the racing and breeding industries.

“The new rules give the stewards greater discretion when dealing with running and riding offences to ensure that an appropriate rule is used in dealing with any transgression,” the Turf Club’s chief executive Denis Egan said.

“The new rules should alleviate the difficulties which arose in the past where the same rule wording was used to deal with minor and major breaches,” he added.

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