Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Eamon Sheehy (Trainer) Random Stable Inspection 3 Sept 2013

The Referrals Committee, Judge Tony Hunt (in the Chair), P.J.A. O’Connor and Hugh Ferguson met at the Turf Club, The Curragh, Co. Kildare on Monday, 7th October 2013 to consider the referral of Eamon Sheehy, Trainer, by Denis Egan, Chief Executive of the Turf Club following a random stable inspection carried out at his Training Establishment on 3rd September 2013 by Turf Club Officials, Michael O’Donoghue and Ms. Nicola O’Connor M.R.C.V.S.  

During the inspection they found a number of areas where there may potentially be rule breaches, including:

(i) A medicines register was not available for inspection

(ii) Six horses on the ‘horses returned in training list’ were not at his training establishment and should have been returned out of training.

(iii) Racing ponies were being trained from the yard.

(iv) The condition of some of the horses was between poor and moderate.  

Evidence was heard from Michael O’Donoghue, Ms. Nicola O’Connor M.R.C.V.S. and Eamon Sheehy. The Committee also considered a written report on the visit from Mr. O’Donoghue and Ms. O’Connor.  

In his evidence Michael O’Donoghue said that the inspection team called to Mr. Sheehy’s yard at 8.30am and stayed for about 1 hour. He checked for the presence of the 9 horses listed on Mr. Sheehy most recent list of horses returned in training. Three horses were identified from their microchip numbers and 6 horses on the list were not present in the yard. Mr. Sheehy said that 5 of these 6 missing horses had gone home to their owner Laurence Murphy, and that the other mare had been covered since her last run. He admitted that these 6 horses should have been returned out of training but he had not done so as he was having trouble with his computer.  There were 6 other racehorses on the premises, of which 3 were in a paddock. Mr. O’Donoghue said that Mr. Sheehy co-operated with the inspection and went on to show the inspection team a barn, about 50 yards away, which stabled racing ponies.  Mr. Sheehy gave details of the owner of these ponies and said that he looked after these ponies as they were ridden in pony races by his two sons aged 10 and 13 years of age.  

In her evidence Ms. Nicola O’Connor said that she inspected the horses in the barn and diagnosed 3 horses with signs of an upper respiratory tract infection in the form of bilateral nasal discharges. She said Mr. Sheehy had not been aware of this and did not report to her any recent incidents of coughing in the yard.  She expressed concern about the condition of some of the horses under Mr. Sheehy’s care which were sharing a bare paddock with cattle in the middle of which was an empty feeder. She also said there was no Medicines Register available for inspection.

She said that when she inspected the ponies in the separate barn only one set of identification documents indicated that any of the ponies had up to date equine influenza vaccinations.  

In his evidence Eamon Sheehy disagreed with Ms O’Connor’s diagnosis of the 3 horses with a nasal discharge and said he had not been aware of any sickness in these animals. He said that there was no discharge later on that day and that the discharge observed by Ms. O’Connor may have been due to the foggy morning. He disagreed with her opinion of the condition of one of the horses in the paddock and said its appearance was due to the horse not standing up to training but he did agree that the other two horses looked thin. He said that the cattle were only put into that paddock the previous evening as a temporary measure and that they had eaten the hay in the feeder.  He produced some invoices from a feed company to show that he regularly bought feed but not in bulk and said that he had 140 round bales of hay so there was ample feed for the horses.

With regard to the racing ponies, he accepted that he did not own the ponies and only kept them as they were ridden in pony races by his two sons. He said he trained the ponies to give his sons opportunities to ride ponies that they were familiar with rather than they having to take outside rides on unsuitable ponies. He said that he did not benefit monetarily from keeping these ponies and that he only received money for diesel when transporting them to the races. Mr. Sheehy said that as the legal guardian of his children he oversees all aspects of their safety while riding which includes saddling their ponies.   He concluded by stating that all the ponies had been vaccinated.  

Having considered the evidence, the Referrals Committee found Mr. Sheehy to be in breach of Rule 148(iii)(b) in respect of the non-availability of a Medicines Register and fined him €170. They also found him to be in breach of Rule 148(vi) for the non-return of horses out of training and fined him €130 in respect of horse “Come On Ub” with the case proven in the other 5 cases.

The Committee found Mr. Sheehy to be in technical breach of Rule 275(iii) as they felt that by training racing ponies he was participating in unrecognized meetings. However they did not impose any sanction in view of the reasons outlined by Mr. Sheehy for the presence of the ponies.

The Committee said that they were giving Mr. Sheehy the benefit of the doubt in respect of the condition of some of the racehorses under his care and pointed out to him the standards expected of a licensed trainer. They said that if he continued to fall short of the standards expected from a licensed trainer and he appeared in front of them again that they may conclude that it is not in his interests to hold a licence. They said they were not making any finding in respect of the welfare issue at this time and directed that his training establishment and horses be randomly inspected over the coming 12 months to ensure that acceptable standards are in place.      

The case was presented by Denis Egan, Chief Executive of the Turf Club.


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