Job of installing CCTV at racecourse stables can finally get underway

Absence of coverage highlighted on the back of the notorious Viking Hoard case

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has confirmed the job of installing CCTV in all of the country’s racecourse stable-yards can finally get under way.

Making sure CCTV is in place at stable-yards in all 26 racetracks in Ireland was among the key recommendations of a joint-Oireachtas Agriculture Committee report into anti-doping in Ireland last year.

The absence of such coverage in the majority of racecourses was highlighted on the back of the notorious Viking Hoard case.

In 2018, the Charles Byrnes trained horse was 'nobbled' with a sedative by an unidentified third party in the Tramore stable-yard.

Byrnes subsequently received a six month suspension for being “seriously negligent” in leaving the horse unsupervised in his stable for a significant period.

At his IHRB hearing the Co. Limerick trainer's solicitor referred to the absence of a CCTV camera that might have eliminated or identified possible culprits. He suggested this resulted in "gaps in the investigation."

Tramore privately installed stable-yard CCTV in 2019 while Leopardstown and the Curragh also have such arrangements.

However most tracks in Ireland still don’t although such CCTV coverage has been mandatory in Britain for years.

Money was made available last year to fill that gap with cost estimates of up to €20,000 to install cameras at a single stable-yard.

The Dail's Public Accounts Committee recently pressed the IHRB on why work hasn't started.

An IHRB spokesman said on Monday: “Once the procurement process was completed and letters had issued with the result to successful and unsuccessful correspondence, a number of bidders had queries and legal correspondence was received from one.

“On the basis of legal advice we took the decision to delay awarding the contract until those matters were resolved.

“However the extension expired last Friday so we are now in a position to progress and we aim to move the project forward as quickly as possible.”

The question of CCTV in stable-yards has proved controversial for the IHRB.

It emerged on the back of the Viking Hoard controversy that money allocated to it by Horse Racing Ireland in 2018 for CCTV installation at some tracks was used instead by regulator for other integrity purposes.

A decision was reportedly taken by the IHRB board that since the funding would have allowed for cameras at only a small number of courses, the money was spent on different integrity aspects.

Examination was previously given by racing authorities to a pilot scheme of CCTV installation at a number of tracks after trainer Ted Walsh was cleared of wrongdoing in relation to how his horse Foxrock lost front shoes at Punchestown in 2014.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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

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