IHRB plan to increase out of competition testing in racing

Overall tests rise to over 4,000 of which five were positive

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) has expressed satisfaction with its levels of out of competition drug testing on horses in 2017 but predicted testing rates will increase this year.

A total of 4,094 tests were taken in 2017 by officials from the IHRB – the body formerly known as the Turf Club – and reported on Tuesday in its statistical report for last year.

That figure of over 4,000 was up from 3,540 in 2016 with 3,074 taken at racecourses. A total of 613 were taken at point to points which left 407 out of competition tests.

Although there were five positive test results overall, none came from the samples taken out of competition. Those 407 samples were a significant increase on 2016 when just 231 out of competition tests were carried out.


"We are happy the level of out of competition testing last year was enough. Hopefully it will increase again this year. If we get a protocol in place with the breeders it will go up," said the lHRB chief executive Denis Egan.

“The fundamental issue is the more testing you do the more likely you are to discover any misuse of product that’s out there.

“There were a number of stable inspections carried out last year and there will be referrals as a result of illegal products being seized. But it’s illegal in the sense that trainers didn’t have prescriptions for these products. If they had prescriptions it wouldn’t be a problem. We’re not talking anabolic steroids or anything like that,” Egan added.

There were no positive results from 777 alcohol breath tests carried out on jockeys at 18 meetings last year. However, the issue of jockeys using recreational drugs resulted in three riders testing positive for cocaine at one meeting in Galway in October.

It is now understood another rider tested positive for cocaine about a month after that. The jockey’s case has yet to be heard but his positive result came before more strict penalties for drug misuse were recommended by a Referrals Committee panel.

Another noteworthy statistic in the IHRB report is a significantly lower 35 per cent rate in Referrals Body hearings that were either successful or partially successful. In 2014 and 2015 the rate was 61 per cent.

“This fluctuates and five years ago it was similar. What changed was a very high success rate in running and riding appeals due to the way the rule was worded. That was tightened up with the new wording of Rule 212,” Egan said.

This Sunday’s Naas action is billed the final ‘Trials Day’ for Cheltenham and the bumper entries include the Willie Mullins-trained Carefully Selected.

He earned quotes of as low as 16-1 for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham after an impressive Leopardstown victory over Christmas.

Mullins already has the first two in most ante-post lists for the big festival bumper – Blackbow and Hollowgraphic – as the champion trainer pursues a ninth win in the race. He last won it with Briar Hill in 2013.

Saturday’s Fairyhouse action could see the return to action of last season’s Troytown winner and Irish Gold Cup runner-up Empire Of Dirt.

The Gigginstown star is one of 10 left in the Grade Three At The Races Bobbyjo Chase. Michael O’Leary’s team has also left in A Genie In A Bottle and Outlander in a race widely regarded as a significant Grand National trial.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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