Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

A.P. O’Brien (Trainer) and Donnacha Aidan O’Brien (Trainer) Referral – The Curragh 12th June 2020

The Referrals Committee, Justice Raymond Groarke (in the chair), Mr. Anthony Byrne and Mr. Peter M. Allen convened at the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB), Co. Kildare on 13th July 2020 to consider the whether or not A.P. O’Brien (Trainer) and Donnacha Aidan O’Brien (Trainer) were in breach of any rules as a result of an incident at the Curragh on Friday, 12th June 2020.

 

Following the meeting at The Curragh on 12th June 2020, there was evidence that A.P. O’Brien and Donnacha Aidan O’Brien may have entered the racecourse without passing through the temperature control check as is required by the Protocols issued by HRI for race meetings behind closed doors in the context of the of Covid-19 pandemic which were issued in May 2020.

 

The matter was referred to the Referrals Committee by Denis Egan, Chief Executive of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board under the provisions of Rule 19A8(i)(b) who were asked to consider whether both trainers were in breach of Rule 272(i). 

 

Evidence was heard from Mr. A.P.O’Brien and Mr. Donnacha Aidan O’Brien who had requested that the matters be heard together.

 

In his evidence, Mr. A.P. O’Brien confirmed that the day in question was his first day to attend a race meeting since the ‘Horse Racing Ireland Protocols for race meetings behind closed doors in the context of the of Covid-19 pandemic’ were issued. Mr. O’Brien stated that he arrived at the races with Donnacha O’Brien and that they parked where they normally would for a meeting at The Curragh. He also confirmed that on approaching the gate through which he would normally enter The Curragh he was not requested by racecourse security to return to the Health Screening Area or asked had he completed the process. As this was his first meeting under the protocols he was not aware of any wrongdoing. Mr. O’Brien also informed the panel of the protocols that he and all his staff adhere to on a daily basis, including a temperature check using identical equipment that is used on each racecourse. He confirmed that he had completed the required questionnaire and obtained a barcode to go racing on this day and at no stage was he denied access to the racecourse. He added that there was no malice in what had happened and expressed his regret at what had occurred. 

 

In his evidence, Mr. Donnacha Aidan O’Brien stated that he had already been racing at Naas and that on this occasion that he had entered The Curragh with Mr. A.P.  O’Brien and had expected to be guided to the Health Screening area on entering the racecourse as is the case at Naas. Mr. O’Brien also confirmed that he had completed the required questionnaire and obtained a barcode to go racing on this day and at no stage was he denied access to the racecourse. He accepted the error of not entering through the Health Screening area.

 

Having considered the evidence, the Referrals Committee were satisfied that Mr. A.P. O’ Brien and Mr. Donnacha Aidan O’Brien were in breach of Rule 272(i) in that they acted in a manner which was prejudicial to the proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing. The committee accepted that there was no malice in their intentions but that the strict adherence of the HRI protocols by everybody is there to safeguard all those who attend a race meeting and that the responsibility is on each attendee to go through the required process.

 

In determining the appropriate sanction, the Referrals Committee, accepted that both Mr. A.P.  O’Brien and Mr. Donnacha Aidan O’Brien had completed the pre-race questionnaire, had not been denied access to the racecourse and that the racecourse security officials should have directed them to the Health Screening Area. The committee fined both Mr. A. P. O’Brien and Mr. Donnacha Aidan O’Brien €2,500 each and prohibited them from attending any racecourse in Ireland for two weeks.

 

The case was presented by Cliodhna Guy, Head of Legal, Licensing & Compliance.


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