Willie Mullins apologises for ‘complete oversight’ after staff breach Covid protocols

Trainer gets fortnight ban and €2,500 fine over incidents at Punchestown on Saturday

Willie Mullins has been banned from attending race meetings for two weeks and fined €2,500 after breaches of Covid-19 protocols involving two of his staff. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins has been banned from accessing a racecourse and fined €2,500 over a breach of racing's Covid-19 protocols at Punchestown on Saturday.

An Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) referrals panel hearing on Thursday night established that two of Mullins’s employees at the Punchestown fixture falsified the coronavirus questionnaire that all those attending race meetings have to fill out.

Both Steve Jones, who drove Mullins's runners to the races, and Katie Murphy, groom, had been at Aintree a week earlier overseeing a runner there. They were required to isolate on their return to Ireland for 14 days but were present at Punchestown.

As the licence holder, and responsible for his staff, Mullins was fined and prevented from going racing for a fortnight under Rule 271(i) relating to conduct prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horse racing.


Jones and Murphy, who were fined €400 and €200 respectively, were also penalised under Rule 272(ii) relating to misleading an official. Both are prohibited from accessing a racecourse for three months.

“It is regrettable what happened and it shouldn’t have happened. It was a complete oversight on our part and we’re sorry for it,” Mullins said.

“I employed Steve to bring the horses to the races and then pick them up again. That’s all I asked him to do on the day, not to go into the races.

“Katie was just a totally committed employee who wanted to go with her horse, put in her application and it was missed in our office which is an oversight on our part. She had been in isolation all week.

"It shouldn't have happened, especially with the good job that the IHRB, Dr Jennifer Pugh [medical officer] and Horse Racing Ireland are doing keeping the industry going," he added.

They are the latest breaches of racing’s coronavirus protocols which have been central to the sport being allowed continue behind closed doors since June 8th.

Shortly after that resumption Emmet Mullins was fined €5,000 and banned from accessing any racecourse for three months following an incident at Leopardstown.

Both the champion flat trainer Aidan O’Brien and his son Donnacha were fined €2,500 and suspended from attending race meetings for two weeks after breaching protocols at the Curragh on Irish 2,000 Guineas day.

Sarah Bermingham, an authorised representative of trainer Enda Bolger, was fined €150 and prohibited from entering a racecourse for a month after accessing Bellewstown in July without the necessary requirements.

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

An IHRB spokesman said on Thursday night: “The Referrals Committee noted that it is regrettable they had to convene again for another breach of Covid protocols.

“It is disheartening that the work done by Dr Jennifer Pugh and her team is being put at risk by a small number of stakeholders.”