Charles Byrnes fails in appeal against ban over Viking Hoard case

Trainer suspended for six months after horse tesed positive for banned substance in 2018

Charles Byrnes has lost his appeal against a six month ban for being seriously negligent when his runner Viking Hoard was 'nobbled' with a sedative at Tramore in 2018.

It was confirmed on Thursday that the Co Limerick trainer will lose his licence for six months after a panel chaired by Mr Justice Nial Fennelly issued its verdict on an appeal heard last week.

The appeals panel agreed with the original Referrals Committee decision that Byrnes was seriously negligent in leaving Viking Hoard unattended for some periods of time in the Tramore stable-yard.

The horse was subsequently found to have raced with 100 times the safe limit of the sedative ACP in its system having been doped by an unidentified third party. He was pulled up in the race.

Viking Hoard was also laid to lose by an unnamed overseas individual who used a so called white label company to wager on the Betfair exchange.

The appeals panel, which also included Justice Leonie Reynolds and John Powell, agreed with the original verdict that there was no evidence of Byrnes being involved in either the doping or the horse being laid to lose.

It also confirmed their view that Byrnes’ failure to ensure any attendance on Viking Hoard for two significant periods prior to the race was “seriously negligent.”

Byrnes “estimated that the gelding was left unattended for a total of between 20 and 25 minutes” after he and his son Cathal went for lunch and when Cathal Byrnes delivered some horse rugs for a member of staff at Tramore. The rules state that no horse can be left unattended.

The appeals panel reported on Thursday: “Given Mr Byrnes’s explicit acceptance of his knowledge of his duty, his behaviour was inexcusable.

“He simply made no attempt to ensure that the horse was attended, in particular, while he and his son went for lunch. It would have been perfectly simple for one to attend the horse while the other had lunch. Mr Byrnes cannot have been unaware of what the Rule says is the ‘obvious risk’.”

It added that it found the actual and potential consequences of the failure to supervise Viking Hoard disturbing. The horse, it said, “was a danger to all nearby persons and animals.”

The appeals body also pointed out that any person betting on Viking Hoard was dishonestly deprived a fair run for their money.

It said Byrnes had indulged in an “unacceptable level of risk taking” and felt a “purely financial sanction on the trainer would be insufficient and inappropriate on the facts of the case.”

Reference was made in Byrnes’ appeal to his personal and financial circumstances and his success as an experienced and capable trainer for 26 years.

It was said that the loss of his trainer’s licence would be ruinous for him, that his employees would have to be let go and that the horses currently under his charge would have to be sent elsewhere.

Nevertheless his six month ban was confirmed. It will begin in two weeks time. A €1,000 fine was also confirmed.

He has also been ordered to pay €2,000 in costs and expenses to the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.