High Court considers whether to pause three-month suspension on trainer Tony Martin

Trainer can run two horses at Tipperary on Wednesday ahead of learning if he has secured a judicial review on Thursday

Trainer Tony Martin is free to run two horses at Tipperary on Wednesday after his three-month license suspension by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) was deferred until the outcome of whether or not he has successfully secured a High Court judicial review of his case is released on Thursday. The suspension was due to begin on Wednesday.

The Co Meath-based trainer, a multiple Cheltenham festival winner, was handed the suspension in March after the IHRB successfully appealed against the leniency of an original sanction handed to Martin for breaching anti-doping rules in 2023.

At an original IHRB referrals panel hearing in December, Martin was fined a total of €11,000 and given a six-month licence suspension that was suspended for two years on the back of his horse, Firstman, failing a drugs test after winning at Dundalk in January of 2023.

Martin’s case for a judicial review into the case was heard on Tuesday afternoon with a decision reserved until Thursday morning. It means his runners Fairytale New York and Squire Ohara can line up at Tipperary.


The Martin-trained Firstman won a handicap as a 13-8 favourite only to subsequently test positive for lidocaine, a local anaesthetic used to block pain that is a prohibited substance on race day.

Firstman was the third Martin-trained winner in four years to fail a test.

Both the trainer and the IHRB appealed the penalties, on the basis, respectively, of severity and leniency. When those appeals were heard, a panel chaired by Justice Peter Kelly ruled that only half of Martin’s original six-month suspension should be suspended. The fines were unchanged.

The three-month ban had been due to end on August 15th resulting in Martin being unable to have runners at the Galway festival. Among his long list of big-race successes are four victories in the prestigious Galway Hurdle.

After Firstman’s failed drugs test, an unannounced inspection of Martin’s premises was carried out. Hair and blood samples were taken from nine horses, including Firstman. All results were negative.

At the original hearing, Martin said he didn’t know where the prohibited substance had come from but put forward a defence that it could have been from contaminated paper bedding at Dundalk when Firstman was stabled there. That was rejected by the panel.

The referrals body said it was invited by the IHRB to infer that the lidocaine was deliberately administered but concluded there had been no deliberate doping. It said on the balance of probabilities it was unable to say how Firstman came to test positive for the drug.

Martin, who won the 2001 Irish Grand National with Davids Lad, saddled a winner at Chester on Friday.

In 2016, Martin, along with owner Maurice Regan of Newtown Anner Stud, succeeded in getting a High Court judicial review into a controversial case involving the horse Pyromaniac.

The Martin-trained runner was at the centre of a ‘non-trier’ case at Killarney that year where penalties were successfully appealed on one part of the ‘non-trier’ rules, only for Martin to be found guilty by an IHRB appeals panel of another section of them.

It also resulted in a 42-day ban on the horse running being upheld by racing’s regulator only for a stay on that penalty being put in place subject to the outcome of the judicial review. Pyromaniac duly ran in the Galway Hurdle that year only to finish unplaced.

In 2017, all sanctions were eventually quashed following that judicial review.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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