Hard border could impact racing regulation in Ireland

Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board says drug testing on studs to begin later in 2019

Irish racing’s regulatory body says uncertainty exists over the implications of Brexit for its logistical administration of the sport here.

Racing has always been administered on an all-island basis in Ireland including during the height of the Troubles.

That won’t change but the impact of a potential no-deal Brexit does concern officials at the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.

The Border between the Republic and the North is set to prove a politically contentious issue in Westminster on Tuesday although more practical considerations in the event of a hard border between the two jurisdictions are to the forefront of the IHRB’s attention.

"It very much depends if there is a hard border or not. If there is a hard border it has implications for horses moving up and down the country, certainly in terms of the time it takes to transport horses going to the north and coming from the North," the IHRB's chief executive Denis Egan said on Monday.

“Even with us potentially accessing trainers yards in the north, that all has to be sorted out, even though we were able to access them in the past when there was a border.

“The other difficulty we might have is if there are different disease regulations in both countries. But we’re working on the preparation of a High Health status for horses in Ireland, England and France at the moment so hopefully that can be seamless enough and be acceptable to all parties.

“But there is a lot of uncertainty about all this. We just don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows, although we might know a little more after this vote on Tuesday,” he added.

Egan also confirmed on Monday that the IHRB’s role in drug testing on unlicensed premises such as stud farms won’t begin until the second half of this year.

Allowing officials from the regulatory onto premises it doesn’t licence proved a major stumbling block to the formation of a new Anti-Doping policy which finally came into force at the start of January.

The long-awaited Industry Wide Policy on Prohibited Substances & Doping Control was described as a landmark moment for the racing industry when it was unanimously approved by the board of Horse Racing Ireland last July.

It promises to introduce traceability of thoroughbreds throughout their lives as recommended by an Anti-Doping Task Force report issued at the start of 2016. That was set up on the back of a number of controversies involving anabolic steroids.

Another key Task Force recommendation was the formulation of a protocol between the regulatory body and the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association to allow IHRB personnel test on stud farms.

That provoked prolonged negotiations until agreement was reached on a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that allows IHRB officials be involved in both random and intelligence led testing throughout racing and breeding.

“Testing on unlicensed premises will begin in the second half of this year because registration is the key to us being able to access foals. My understanding is once foal registrations are in place we will be able to access premises to carry out testing.

“There is agreement by all parties that this will take place and it will take place. We are in further discussions with the ITBA regarding the putting in place of a protocol and we don’t envisage any difficulties with that,” Denis Egan said.

“There are other elements to that such as testing with sales companies and we are talking to the sales companies about that. We continue to do out of competition testing on licensed premises as before,” he added.

A contentious element to the new policy has been the inclusion of a prior day notice in some circumstances for random testing. The IHRB described that as “less than ideal” before the policy was even unveiled. Egan declined to comment further on that on Monday.

Tuesday sees action return to Fairyhouse which could be good news for Gordon Elliott who enjoyed a hat-trick at the track on Saturday.

The Co Meath trainer's string appears to be firing on all cylinders at the moment and Elliott and jockey Jack Kennedy look to have a number of clear chances.

Grotesque found Getaway Kid too good at Down Royal on St Stephen’s Day but that experience could prove crucial against At Your Ease in the opening Beginners Chase.

Eclair de Beuafeu and Ticket To Ride also look to be prime chances for Elliott on the card although perhaps his most interesting contender will be Getaway John in a later maiden hurdle.

A very smart bumper performer last season, Getaway John has disappointed in two starts to date over flights at two miles.

Given his bumper performances though a sharp step up in trip to almost three miles could suit the six year old who looks to have Myth Buster to beat.