Champion trainer Willie Mullins's vet, Tim Brennan, could face disqualification from racing for up to 10 years after being called to appear before a British Horseracing Authority disciplinary hearing in July.
Brennan has been accused by British racing’s ruling body of passing on inside information to his brother, Michael, about an injury to Faugheen shortly before it was made public that the hot favourite for the 2016 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham would miss the race.
Michael Brennan is alleged to have subsequently placed ‘lay’ bets against the horse in betting markets with liabilities of several thousand euro. He failed to cooperate with a BHA investigation and was declared a disqualified person in October of 2016.
On Monday the BHA confirmed it is charging Tim Brennan of allegedly breaching rules relating “to commissioning or conspiring in corrupt or fraudulent practises”.
It also alleged that Brennan “enabled and/or assisted Michael Brennan to cheat at gambling in relation to the 2016 Cheltenham Champion Hurdle”.
The potential penalties include a disqualification period from six months up to 10 years. BHA rules include provision to deny entry to any premises licensed by the authority.
Mullins is not involved in the case and the BHA has said there is no suggestion he or staff members at his Co Carlow stables were aware of Tim Brennan’s alleged actions. Mullins was unavailable for comment on Monday.
Faugheen was an odds-on favourite to defend his Champion Hurdle crown until Mullins announced in February of 2016 – less than a month before the big race – that the horse would miss the rest of the season with a ligament problem.
However prior to Mullins’s announcement Faugheen’s price on betting exchanges had drifted to odds against.
Later in 2016 it emerged the BHA were investigating suspicious betting patterns and that Mullins had spoken to investigators. He said at the time: “I’m as anxious to know what happened, if anything happened, as quickly as possible.”
The BHA’s chief regulatory officer said on Monday he couldn’t comment on specifics of the charges against Tim Brennan but confirmed that Michael Brennan’s non-cooperation had delayed matters.
“This failure to comply has resulted in the investigation process taking longer than it otherwise would have done,” said Brant Dunshea.
Bans in Britain usually get reciprocated in Ireland although on Monday the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board said it hasn’t been asked to reciprocate Michael Brennan’s disqualification.
"We haven't had any request to reciprocate any penalty in that case," said the IHRB's chief executive Denis Egan. He confirmed that Irish racing's regulatory body will watch what happens at the BHA hearing on July 16th-17th and that Tim Brennan is free to work as normal until then.
Egan also said the suspicious betting patterns identified by the BHA had not come across the radar of Ireland’s racing authorities as it related to a race in Britain.
Separately, last year Tim Brennan pleaded guilty to possession of unauthorised medicines following the discovery of unlicensed substances in his van at Mullins’s yard. No conviction was recorded against him after it was judged the offences were “purely regulatory”.
In other news, Declan McDonogh is free to ride at this weekend’s Tattersalls Irish Guineas festival after having a five-day ban reduced to three after an appeal on Monday. The reduction allows the ban to be deferred.
The former champion jockey was suspended under ‘Non-Trier’ rules at Gowran last week and Denis Egan explained: “The appeals panel took into account that he has ridden for 25 years without a rule breach of this type.
“They accepted five days was appropriate for a first offence. But bearing in mind how it will impact on him with two Group Ones they felt the penalty was more onerous on him than in most cases and in the special circumstances they felt it would be unfair to leave it at five days.”
McDonogh is set to ride the Tetrarch Stakes winner Imaging in Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh, the first classic of 2018 here.
Before that he will be at Sligo on Tuesday evening for five rides and could secure a first and last race double on the Dermot Weld pair, Alanannda and Sheberghan.
This article was amended on May 25th