Ronan McNally will ‘almost certainly’ appeal IHRB findings into horses’ performance

IHRB said Armagh trainer breached long list of racing rules, including those relating to ‘non-trier’ and passing inside information

Armagh trainer Ronan McNally has said he will “almost certainly” appeal the findings of an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) referrals panel after the publication of an extensive list of racing rules he is said to have breached.

On Tuesday the panel chaired by Justice Brian McGovern outlined the results of a long-running investigation into the improvement in form of some of McNally’s horses.

It amounts to a lengthy and devastating list of regulatory breaches that refers to McNally having conducted the training and running of his horses in a manner prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of racing.

Breaches relating to “non-trier” rules and concealing his ownership of horses in other yards were outlined by the panel which heard evidence from McNally and other witnesses during a four-day hearing in October.


It concluded that McNally had achieved “a pattern of improvement in form of horses at a level previously unfamiliar to experienced and long-serving handicapping officials.”

The panel said it has been proved that McNally conspired with the Co Cork-based point-to-point handler Ciarán Fennessy “to engage in a corrupt and fraudulent practise in relation to the passing of inside information for betting purposes and/or concealing the true ability of horses in order to obtain handicap marks not reflective of their ability.”

It also outlined how, on the balance of probabilities, McNally failed to lodge the correct ownership details with Horse Racing Ireland before entering/running the horses All Class, Full Noise and Petrol Head in a series of races from 2019 to 2021.

Another trainer, David Dunne, was found to have conspired with McNally to conceal the ownership of All Class and Full Noise. The panel concluded Dunne failed to lodge the correct ownership details of those two horses, as well as Petrol Head, in 36 races.

Fennessy, a former leading point-to-point rider based near Fermoy, was found to have passed on inside information regarding the condition of horses to third parties.

No sanctions were delivered on Tuesday and an IHRB spokesman said they are unlikely to be delivered until the new year. It is understood January 9th could be the date. Until then, both McNally and Dunne can enter horses for races.

McNally, who owns a kitchen fitting business, and holds a restricted licence to train up to eight horses, said: “On legal advice I don’t want to make too much comment at this stage as there is still another hearing in January to attend. However, I am deeply disappointed and dissatisfied with the findings to date.

“No penalties are finalised yet and I still have the right to appeal the original charges. I will almost certainly be appealing the charges. I’m very unhappy with the findings.”

The trainer has come to prominence in recent years through successes for horses such as Dreal Deal and The Jam Man with some of his runners winning after being heavily gambled on.

Dreal Deal landed a massive gamble at Navan in September of 2020 after being backed from 20-1 to 6-4 favourite.

A stewards’ enquiry on the day heard evidence from the National Hunt handicapper that Dreal Deal’s performance was an improvement “in excess of two stone” on his previous form.

The horse subsequently won his next five races, including on the flat at Limerick a month later. That performance, too, was also referred for further investigation as the flat handicapper said it showed improvement “in the region of two stone” on previous form.

Along with McNally, Dunne and Fennessy, professional jockeys Mark Enright and Darragh O’Keeffe were interviewed by the panel, as was amateur rider Eoin O’Brien.

The latter was found in breach of four charges against him relating to his ride on Dreal Deal at Navan in July 2020 when the horse finished 10th.

The panel found that O’Brien intentionally didn’t allow Dreal Deal exit the starting stalls in a timely fashion.

They added that Dreal Deal was “ridden in such a way that the horse could not be seen to have been the subject of a genuine attempt to obtain from the horse a timely, real and substantial effort to achieve the best possible placing.”

The referrals panel also examined if McNally had secured a pattern of organising betting coups in association with improvement in form but that could not be proven.

However, they did conclude that he had passed on “information about the condition and wellbeing of Dreal Deal to allow others to profit from betting on the horse with a betting organisation.”

They also said McNally had treated the rules of racing “in a cavalier manner” and ignored the need to report issues relevant to the proper conduct and management of racing.

In other regulatory news, trainer Declan Queally was fined a total of €4,000 by a referrals panel on Monday on the back of an inspection of his premises last year.

They also imposed a six-month withdrawal of Queally’s licence to train but suspended that for 12 months.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column