Dreal Deal’s Navan win to be investigated as huge gamble lands

Ronan McNally-trained horse was backed in from 20-1 and won comfortably at 6-4

Examination of betting patterns by British Horseracing Authority analysts is set to be part of the investigation into the huge gamble landed by the Ronan McNally trained Dreal Deal at Navan on Saturday.

Dreal Deal, whose previous best finish in 11 racecourse starts was eighth, was backed from 20-1 overnight and started 6-4 favourite for a handicap hurdle.

Despite a bad mistake at the first obstacle, which saw jockey Eoin O’Brien almost unseated and the horse drop to last, Dreal Deal recovered to travel smoothly through the race and win easily by over six lengths.

The Navan stewards subsequently enquired into the horse’s apparent improvement in form, at which the senior National Hunt handicapper described the performance as being an improvement “in excess of two stone.” The stewards referred the matter to the Referrals Committee.


It was the second referral in eight days for Co Armagh based McNally.

At Limerick earlier this month the stewards referred on the apparent improvement in form of The Jam Man after that horse finished second in a handicap on the flat. They also ordered that samples be taken from The Jam Man for analysis.

Last year McNally complained of being “treated like a criminal” by the British Horseracing Authority after stewards at Southwell interviewed him over riding instructions for The Jam Man who later won.

In February the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board signed a deal with the BHA to provide integrity services. That includes the monitoring of betting trends on racing here and it is understood such analysis is likely to be part of any investigation into Saturday’s race.

“All avenues are open to the Referrals Committee to investigate. That’s all I can say on that,” an IHRB spokesman said on Sunday.

In an interview on Racing TV on Sunday, McNally said he backed Dreal Deal himself at both 3-1 and 6-4 for a “wee bit of luck” but added that there was no gamble from 20-1.

He also said “the whole betting game now is a bit of a farce” and that if a horse was 20-1, then £100 would move it to 12-1.

On Saturday, McNally told he stewards that his yard “had been under a cloud since November 2019 and aspergillus had been the diagnosed problem to explain the illness of all his horses. He felt that this condition accounted for their abysmal performances.”

In March he turned all his horses out and they lived in the paddocks without being ridden out. He said that the reopening of racing after lockdown (June 8th) was when he started to train them again.

Under questioning as to why Dreal Deal ran on June 17th at Gowran in a nine furlong flat race, when it appeared from evidence that the animal had only returned to racing following a three to four month layoff, the trainer stated that he was about 80 oer cent fit on that occasion.

McNally also said the horse, who is an ex-point to pointer, ran on the flat to sharpen him up and that he was unable to account for the strong market support although felt “it may have been local support.”

At Limerick, after The Jam Man’s race, McNally told the stewards about the horse having suffered from the fungal infection, aspergillus.

He also informed them that he had secured “a powder remedy in Cork” about three weeks previously and was satisfied that the animal could race while being treated.

An IHRB spokesman also said on Sunday that an investigation into a controversial race involving a pair of Denis Hogan trained runners at Dundalk prior to lockdown in March is “ongoing.”

BHA betting experts are involved in examining betting patterns on a claiming race after stewards looking into the running and riding of the Hogan trained Yuften in a race won by his stable companion Tony The Gent referred the matter to the IHRB’s chief executive.

Restrictions put in place during lockdown are said to have slowed down the investigation where betting trends are believed to have an international dimension.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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