Willie Mullins says staff must be vigilant for horses being nobbled
‘Once you have banks, you’re going to have bank robbers,’ says the champion trainer
Willie Mullins says there’s always a danger of horses being got at. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Champion trainer Willie Mullins believes a significant danger of horses being nobbled always exists and consistently urges his staff to be vigilant for dopers.
“My view is once you have banks, you’re going to have bank robbers,” said jump racing’ s most powerful figure on Sunday.
“It’s the same in any industry. There are always people in every industry who will try to get one up on it through nefarious means. In any walk of life you’ve got to be on your guard for people who want to buck the system,” Mullins added.
It isn’t the first time he has voiced such concerns.
In particular, ahead of the 2014 Cheltenham festival, Mullins expressed worries about his string being got at and pointed to the dangers of sedatives being used on horses.
Recently the issue came to fore over the Viking Hoard case where the Charles Byrnes-trained horse was nobbled with the sedative ACP and ran at Tramore in October 2018 with 100 times the safety limit for the drug in his system.
Byrnes was banned for six months, and fined €1,000, for being “seriously negligent” in leaving the horse unattended for a period of time in the Tramore stableyard.
An appeal by the Co Limerick trainer against those penalties will be held on Tuesday week.
Mullins stressed on Sunday that all people within the sport need to be vigilant at all times in relation to horses being got at.
“I would always be on to my staff to be vigilant at race meetings, and have enough people at race meetings so horses are not left alone.
“A lot of my staff think I live in a Nat Gould (novelist whose books have a racing theme) world of racing.
“But it takes something like this to remind them that there is a danger there and everyone should be aware.
“It’s always a significant danger. In my lifetime you had a gang around in the early 1980’s and a lot of my father’s (Paddy Mullins) horses were nobbled.
“Then you had other cases in England, like the Gorytus case,” he said.
Gorytus was a highly rated two-year-old trained by Dick Hern who started favourite for the 1982 Dewhurst Stakes but finished tailed off.
There was persistent speculation that he may have been doped although nothing was ever proven.
Details did emerge in Britain in 2002 about how 23 horses were doped with ACP in a two-month period in 1990 by the former trainer and jockey Dermot Browne.
They included the high-profile pair Bravefoot and Norwich at Doncaster in September of 1990.
In the back of such incidents CCTV in racecourse stableyards in Britain became mandatory.
However, Leopardstown is the only track in Ireland to have CCTV in its stable-yard for integrity purposes.
That has prompted criticism of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board and the potential for security breaches at tracks here.
“Maybe it (security) could be better. Maybe there should be cameras. But what’s to stop people doping a horse before they ever go into a stableyard. There are lots of ways to get at horses,” Mullins said.
The champion trainer is readying a huge team for next weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown where he could saddle odds-on favourites for four of the eight Grade 1 races up for grabs over the two days.
The quartet of Appreciate It (Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle,) Energumene (Arkle,) Monkfish (Flogas Novice Chase) and Chacan Pour Soi (Ladbrokes Dublin Chase) are all rated hot favourites to win at Irish jump racing’s showpiece event.
Mullins will bid for an 11th success in the €200,000 Paddy Power Irish Gold on Sunday with both Kemboy and Melon set to line up.
Saturday’s feature will be the €150,000 Irish Champion Hurdle, a race Mullins won five years running (2011-15) with Hurricane Fly. He also won with Faugheen in 2016.
His main hope this year is likely to be Sharjah, an impressive Grade 1 winner at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Last year the Rich Ricci-owned star won the same race during the holiday period but could subsequently manage only sixth to Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion.
“He made a mistake just after halfway which wasn’t like him and it put him out of the race altogether. He jumped very well at Christmas and I hope he’ll do so again,” Mullins said on Sunday.