Charles Byrnes: ‘we don’t believe that we were in any way negligent’

Trainer saddled the JP McManus owned Off You Go to win at the Dublin Racing Festival

Charles Byrnes has insisted he was in no way negligent in relation to the Viking Hoard case.

On Tuesday the trainer will appeal a six month ban imposed last month after being found to be “seriously negligent” when his runner, Viking Hoard was ‘nobbled’ with a sedative at Tramore in 2018.

The case, which saw details emerge of how the horse was doped by an unidentified third party, after being laid to lose on the Betfair exchange, has dominated headlines in recent weeks and came to the fore again on Sunday when Byrnes saddled the JP McManus owned Off You Go to win at the Dublin Racing Festival.

After the 10-1 shot won the Gaelic Plant Hire Handicap Chase by half a length under jockey Mark Walsh, Byrnes was interviewed on RTÉ where he was critical of Betfair and also how the only people interviewed in the investigation were him and his son Cathal.

When it was pointed out to him that racing has suffered reputational damage over the matter he said: “I couldn’t agree more. I can’t go into the specifics but we don’t believe that we were in any way negligent.

“There are lessons to be learned from all sides. It is a very unfortunate incident that wasn’t followed up properly from day one and it has been left drag on. We’re here now in this situation and the appeal is on Tuesday so I can’t say too much more on it.”

The Co. Limerick based trainer said the case has “very upsetting” for him and his family, as well as racing in general. However he did comment: “There was nobody held to account. Betfair are not putting anyone forward. Why can’t we question the people who are supposed to have laid the horse. Betfair are not co-operating at all.

“I have big questions. There hasn’t been much of an enquiry either. There has only been two people interviewed in the space of two years.”

Byrnes’s popular reputation as someone bookmakers fear was pointed out but he responded: “That’s not the way I operate. I don’t lay horses. I back horses.”

Off You Go was winning at the Dublin Racing Festival for a third year. Afterwards Walsh received a one day ban for his use of the whip on the winner. On a day dominated by Willie Mullins, Off You Go was one of just three winners not saddled by the champion trainer.

Paul Hennessy struck a blow on the big stage in the opening handicap hurdle as Heaven Help Us won the race named after Mullins's father, Paddy Mullins.

Hennessy is one of the biggest names in greyhound racing but was delighted to win the race with one of the handful of horses he trains.

“It’s a great thrill to win Paddy’s race. We were neighbours and when I was a young land he would often bring me to the races, and make sure I got home as well,” he said.

Frustration

It was a frustrating weekend for Gordon Elliott watching his great rival Mullins in such overwhelming form. However he did secure a Grade 1 success with Quilixios in the Tatts Juvenile Hurdle.

The 4-6 favourite made it three from three over flights and was cut to 5-1 for the Triumph at Cheltenham were Elliott holds an enviable hand with the favourite Zanahiyr also in his care.

"I'd imagine he'll go for the Triumph along with Zanahiyr, unless he gets a nice mark in the Fred Winter, " said Elliott.

Quilixios showed a good attitude on Sunday to overhaul Saint Sam in the straight and win by over five lengths.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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

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