BHA denies bias over quizzing of Irish trainers
IRTA says ‘it would appear that Irish trainers are being singled out for special attention’
Jockey Gary Halpin and Co Tipperary-based trainer Denis Hogan. Representatives of Mr Hogan were quizzed by stewards at Ayr on Monday before Evasive Power ran unplaced in a handicap. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
British racing’s ruling body has denied bias in relation to its carrying out of pre-race inquiries, but the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association has said Irish trainers appear to be singled out.
Representatives of Co Tipperary-based Denis Hogan were quizzed by stewards at Ayr on Monday before Evasive Power ran unplaced in a handicap.
At the request of the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) integrity department, the stewards asked for information regarding the selection of the race, expectations for the horse and riding instructions. Evasive Power subsequently was unplaced.
Three other such inquiries took place on Hogan runners in Britain in May. The only other trainers to have been similarly interviewed so far in 2019 have been Co Limerick-based Charles Byrnes, and Ronan McNally, who trains in Armagh.
McNally said he felt like a criminal after being interviewed prior to The Jam Man winning at Southwell last month. Byrnes-trained runners in Britain have been the subject of such interviews on three occasions this year.
Michael Grassick, chief executive of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association, said on Tuesday that he has been in contact with the British Horseracing Authority’s counterpart in Ireland, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB), about the matter.
“We’ve made representations to the IHRB and asked for the reason. They’ve just told us it’s a different jurisdiction and they don’t get involved,” he said. “But I’m uneasy about it, and so are a lot of people. It would appear that Irish trainers are being singled out for special attention.”
Part of its rules
However, a British Horseracing Authority spokesman said on Tuesday that such pre-race inquiries were part of its rules, and decisions on who was spoken to were based on specific circumstances which could include intelligence or known integrity concerns.
“Over 100 Irish trainers have had runners here so far in 2019, and we’ve spoken to only three of them. In that period no British trainers have been interviewed, but there were British trainers interviewed in 2018. It’s not a major thing,” said Robin Mounsey.
However, the concentration on Irish-based runners has prompted some unhappiness in racing circles here, with a number of trainers privately asking why similar queries are not made in relation to British-based horses running in Ireland.
The IHRB has confirmed that pre-race questions, similar to what have been carried out in Britain, have never been asked of anyone here although officials have provision to do so if they wish.
“Similar to the BHA they would do it if they feel the need to. There’s a security and integrity team there. They monitor things and, with the stewards, decide if there is a requirement. Obviously they haven’t felt the need to do it,” a spokesman said.
Grassick also pointed to a broader context in which the BHA carried out inspections and tests on Irish-trained horses entered for races at major festivals in Britain such as Cheltenham.
They have proved contentious at times, although Mounsey said on Tuesday that the BHA asked IHRB vets to take samples on its behalf, and such inspections were also carried out in France.
The IHRB’s chief executive Denis Egan confirmed that Irish racing’s regulatory body has not similarly visited British trainers’ yards with horses entered to run in Ireland. However, he said they could do so if required.
“If the BHA come over here an IHRB official is always present at an inspection, and we carry out any out-of-competition testing on their behalf for them,” he added.
Last month Byrnes described BHA questioning prior to his runner Mr Smith winning at Carlisle as an “interrogation”. He said he had no problem with such questions being asked, but felt Irish trainers were being treated unfairly by the BHA.