IHRB insists officials involved in Mahon case acted ‘professionally and appropriately’

Michael O'Leary says Tiger Roll will be retired after Cross-County race at Cheltenham

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has said it stands fully behind its chief veterinary officer and head of anti-doping Dr Lynn Hillyer.

It insisted regulatory officials acted “professionally and appropriately” throughout its investigation of animal welfare regulation breaches that led to former trainer Stephen Mahon losing his licence .

A newspaper report on Sunday again suggested links between Mahon supplying Hillyer with details of an unnamed trainer using drugs on horses in 2020, and an inspection of his Co Galway yard a year later which led to him losing his licence for four years.

That penalty was subsequently reduced by six months on appeal.

A previous Sunday Independent report pointed to Mahon as the source of information that prompted Jim Bolger’s high-profile claims about drugs being Irish racing’s No. 1 problem.

Bolger has also predicted a Lance Armstrong will emerge in the sport and that he has no faith in the IHRB’s drug-testing procedures.

The latest report on Sunday focused on details of visits by Department of Agriculture personnel and IHRB officials at Mahon’s stables in 2021. Extensive text messaging between Hillyer and an unnamed employee at Mahon’s yard was published.

The report indicated the unnamed employee had concerns about the welfare of horses at the premises.

However it also details of an e-mail sent by the unnamed employee’s father that was critical of the IHRB and its behaviour towards what was described as a “mentally unwell woman”.

It also reported that one of Mahon’s owners, Tom Doran, plans to instigate legal proceedings against the IHRB in relation to the racehorse Gregory’s Girl which was euthanised in April of last year.

On Sunday an IHRB spokesman said the regulator is not aware of any legal proceedings being taken against it.

Highly selective

Asked if the IHRB stood over the actions and methods employed in the inspections of Mahon’s premises, and the subsequent prosecution of the case, the spokesman replied “Absolutely, yes”.

“Sanctions were determined at a referrals hearing and then subsequently at an appeal hearing following all evidence heard over the course of those lengthy hearings. That included photographic evidence, video evidence and expert veterinary testimony,” he said.

An IHRB statement said: “We advised the Sunday Independent that based on the questions that we received, we believe their information to be out of date, incomplete and inaccurate.

“The IHRB has acted professionally and appropriately at all times and some of the correspondence used is highly selective, outdated and incomplete.”

The spokesman also dismissed any suggestion of the regulator exploiting a vulnerable young person.

“As I say, we acted appropriately and professionally at all times,” he commented.

In other news, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has his dual-Grand National hero Tiger Roll will be retired after he runs at Cheltenham in a fortnight.

Tiger Roll is on course to try and equal Quevega’s record six festival victories and will line up in the Cross-Country Chase which he has won three times before.

On Sunday O’Leary once again criticised the British Horseracing Authority handicapper Martin Greenwood for his rating of Tiger Roll which prompted the businessman to rule the horse out of Aintree in April.

Describing Tiger Roll as “like a fifth child to me” O’Leary told Sky Sport Racing that Greenwood’s ego was “getting in the way” of any attempt to emulate Red Rum’s three National victories.

“If he rated him at around 150 and gave him a 5lb premium for his past Aintree performance he’d be 155 which is what the Irish handicapper rated him this time last year.

“We’d have run him at that and it would at least have given him a fair chance.

“You cannot defy age. He will not be in the Grand National by the time he runs in the Cross-Country. He’s coming out at the next forfeit stage. I have no intention of asking the horse, who is like a fifth child to me, to carry 11.8 or 11.10 around Aintree at his age.

Richest race

“Thankfully the Tiger Roll controversy will never happen again because he will be retired after the Cross-Country race in Cheltenham this year,” O’Leary said.

He also cast doubt on his surprise Irish Gold Cup winner Conflated lining up in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham if another Gordon Elliott star, Galvin, runs in the race.

“I don’t think Conflated will win the Gold Cup because if Galvin runs in the Gold Cup for Gordon, I think we’ll switch Conflated to the Ryanair.

“I don’t think Conflated would beat Galvin and I think it would make sense from Gordon’s point of view to divide the two horses. We’ll go and take on Willie [Mullins] in the Ryanair,” O’Leary said.

Irish horses failed to strike at Saturday’s Saudi Cup meeting where the locally trained 80-1 outsider Emblem Road won the world’s richest race, the $20 million Saudi Cup.

Earlier on the card Johnny Murtagh’s Irish Leger winner Sonnboyliston was an honourable runner-up to the Japanese winner Stay Foolish in a $2.5 million handicap.

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