Jessica Harrington fined and given two-week ban after breaking Aintree Covid protocols

Trainer changed travel plans and didn’t stay in ‘Irish bubble’ during Grand National meeting

Jessica Harrington has been fined €3,500 and banned from attending a racecourse for two weeks after breaching racing's Covid-19 protocols at the Aintree Grand National meeting.

At a Referrals Committee hearing convened on Monday on Zoom and chaired by Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, the Gold Cup and Classic winning trainer was found to have acted in a manner "prejudicial to the proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing."

At the hearing it emerged that following last month’s Aintree Grand National festival, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) became aware that Harrington had travelled to the fixture without residing in the ‘Irish bubble’ as required.

The ‘bubble’ where staff connected to Irish-trained horses running at Aintree was situated at Haycock 20 miles away. It replicated the arrangements put in place for the previous month’s Cheltenham festival.

Harrington, who ran both Magic Of Light and Jett in the National, confirmed to the panel on Monday that she was aware of what was required in terms of accommodation within the ‘Irish bubble’ in place for those travelling to Aintree.

She said her intention was to travel to Aintree from her home on the morning of the race and return to Ireland that evening. That meant she wasn’t required to enter the ‘ bubble’.

However, she said that in the days before the fixture she decided that making the journey to Aintree in one day would be too exhausting and so changed her plans to travel on the Friday instead.

She said she used the opportunity to carry out some “independent business” with owners by viewing a horse they had requested her to look at and she accepted an offer to stay at their accommodation.

Harrington said she felt at the time that she wasn’t breaking the rules as she never entered the Irish bubble on the raceday. She now accepted though that she was in breach of the protocols.

Having considered the evidence, the Referrals Committee were satisfied that Harrington was in breach of Rule 272 in that she acted in a manner which was prejudicial to the proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing.

Justice Groarke said that the panel acknowledged that Harrington recognised the work which has been carried out by Dr Jennifer Pugh and the staff of the IHRB and Horse Racing Ireland in putting the required protocols in place.

He added that a breach of these protocols could have enormous consequences for racing in Ireland so the committee panel imposed the fine and prohibited Harrington from attending a racecourse for a period of two weeks, commencing on May 24th.

Harrington is the latest high-profile figure in Irish to have broken the rules on Covid-19 protocols.

In November champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins was fined €2,500 and suspended from going racing for a fortnight.

Two of his employees attended a Punchestown fixture having falsified the coronavirus questionnaire that everyone attending race meetings has to fill out. As the licence holder, and being responsible for his staff, Mullins was penalised.

Shortly after racing resumed behind closed doors last June, Emmet Mullins was fined €5,000 and banned from going racing for three months after an incident at Leopardstown.

Both the champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien and his son Donnacha were fined €2,500 and barred from going racing for two week after breaching the protocols at the Curragh on Irish 2,000 Guineas day.

In September jockey Kevin Brouder was fined €500 and suspended for eight weeks after bringing a passenger in his car, who had not completed the necessary pre-race health screening, into Galway racecourse.