Fairyhouse report: New anti-doping unit announced
Turf Club to submit budget to HRI; Nearly Nama’d wins first big handicap of 2016
The Turf Club aims to put in place a new anti-doping unit, one of the recommendations in the yet-to-be-published Drugs Task Force report due to be released before the end of March.
The regulatory body’s former senior steward, Neville O’Byrne, announced the new unit in a Moyglare Dinner speech at the K Club over the weekend and the Turf Club’s chief executive Denis Egan has confirmed it forms part of its integrity budget submission made to Horse Racing Ireland.
“We envisage the person in charge of the unit exclusively dealing with our anti-doping policy, out of competition testing and so on,” he said. “That person will be someone with experience in the area and they will work closely alongside a new senior veterinary officer. The current senior officer, Terry Smith, is due to retire in June.
“Our budget submission will be put before the HRI board on February 1st and it will also include an application to upgrade laboratory equipment, all of it part of our ongoing response to the doping threat to the industry,” Egan added.
It was nature which impacted on a Sunday Fairyhouse card that saw the first big handicap of 2016 – the €100,000 Underwriting Exchange Dan Moore chase – go the way of owner JP McManus and jockey Barry Geraghty, who’d memorably landed the final big handicap of 2015 with Minella Foru in the Paddy Power.
After making his lowest weight in a year, Geraghty was in no mood to make a mistake on the Sandra Hughes-trained Nearly Nama’d who had over four lengths in hand of Mozoltov at the line.
Fairyhouse officials were counting their blessings that the 11mm of overnight rain was less than half of what fell at nearby Dublin airport and allowed the meeting go ahead. However, ground conditions meant two fences wound up omitted from the big race. One of them was the usual third-last obstacle, which saw the 9-4 favourite Bright New Dawn get tightened for room as the field bunched through the gap around the fence. He faded to seventh as Nearly Nama’d followed up a course and distance win in November.
“He has got stronger, the trip was right, he’s a great jumper and he loves these conditions,” said Hughes, who won her maiden Grade 1 just over a year ago with Lieutenant Colonel and also landed last Easter’s Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse with Thunder And Roses.
Low-lying sun became another problem in the following other two steeplechases which saw half a dozen intended obstacles skipped in the novice chase which wound up providing the McManus team with the middle-leg of a hat-trick courtesy of the Mark Walsh-ridden Marlbrook.
The former Grade 1 winning hurdler McKinley broke his duck over fences in the preceding Beginners Chase – where they skipped five – which saw his market rival, Alisier D’Irlande, crash out at the fourth-last when clear.
“Fortuitous,” was Willie Mullins’s verdict on McKinley’s success. “He was left in front and idled the whole way. Maybe we’ll go out in trip with him.”
Smooth bumper successGordon Elliott
“He’s a big, raw horse who we might not do too much more with this year. I think we might mind him and he’ll be very nice with summer’s grass,” said the trainer.
Elliott’s previous winners completed doubles for Barry Geraghty, who teamed up with Myztique in the mares maiden, and McKinley’s rider Bryan Cooper who also scored on Tocororo for Gigginstown in the opening maiden hurdle. It meant a successful switch for Cooper who had been scheduled to ride at Tramore before it was called off on Saturday.
Danny Mullins missed out on riding Tennis Cap in the big handicap as Tramore’s cancellation allowed Ruby Walsh take the mount, although the jockey hit the score-sheet on Shannak for his father, Tony, in the handicap hurdle.
“He goes on heavy so we’ll stay at this for a while,” said the trainer.