Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Mark Bolger (Rider) & Mrs John Harrington (Trainer) Appeals - Tipperary, 17 April 2015

The Appeals Body (Division Two), N.B. Wachman (in the Chair), Peter Reynolds and C.P. Magnier met at the Turf Club, The Curragh, Co. Kildare on Monday, 27th April 2015 to consider the appeals of Mark Bolger, rider and Mrs John Harrington, trainer.

The appeals were against the decision of the Stewards at Tipperary on 17th April 2015, when following the running of the Tipperary Supporters Club Maiden Hurdle, both Mark Bolger and Mrs John Harrington were found to be in breach of Rule 212.  As a result, Mark Bolger was suspended for seven race days and ordered to forfeit his riding fee, Mrs John Harrington was fined €1,000 and High Tail It suspended for 42 days.

The grounds of appeal lodged by Mark Bolger were that given the horse’s age, experience and manner of racing in the early part of the race, he obtained the best possible place.

The grounds of appeal lodged by Mrs John Harrington were that the horse was run on its merits and at no stage was the rider instructed to do anything, other than obtain the best possible place.

Evidence was heard from Mark Bolger and Mrs John Harrington.  The Appeals Body also viewed videos of the race, as well as other races from Wexford and Tipperary in which Mark Bolger had ridden.

In his evidence Mark Bolger said the instructions he received from Mrs Harrington were to drop in towards the rear of mid division, get the horse settled into a good rhythm and run as well as possible.  He said he was familiar with the horse as he had ridden the horse on many occasions at home.  He noted that the horse had plenty of work done prior to the Tipperary race and knew his job.  He said there were no instructions to use or not to use the whip and he was never told not to do his best.  He also confirmed that he had never been given an instruction by Mrs Harrington at any stage in the past not to do his best on any horse he had ridden for her.

In relation to the race, Mr Bolger said the horse was keen early on and jumped well on the whole.  He said the horse was green throughout the race.  He said the horse jumped the fourth last hurdle really well but missed the third last, with the result that he was slow away from it which allowed the other horses to get away.  He said he grabbed a hold of the horse at that stage to try to get him to run on and between the last two hurdles it suddenly clicked with the horse what he had to do, with the result that he finished strongly.  He said the horses in front of him were stopping and accepted that the ride looked bad.  He said if he wanted to cover up the horse he could have stayed on the inside in the latter stages of the race.  He accepted that the use of the whip may have made a difference but felt at the time the horse was only ever going to be second and that he had obtained his best possible placing.

Mr Bolger accepted that he should have reported the horse ran green after the race.

In response to questions from Paul Murtagh, stipendiary steward, Mr Bolger stated that after the horse jumped the fourth last hurdle, he took him back as he felt it was the right thing to do.  However, the horse was then slow at the third last and Mr Bolger attributed this to the fact that he had taken the horse back.  He agreed that he did not rush the horse up after the mistake at the third last, and said the horse’s best work at home was when he was ridden quietly.  He reiterated he had no other motive except to win the race and that he did not deliberately prevent the horse from running on its merits on the day.

In her evidence, Mrs John Harrington outlined the horse’s history since he came to be trained by her just before Christmas.  She said the horse worked better when he was dropped in behind and she wanted him dropped in at Tipperary and to see plenty of light at his hurdles.  She confirmed the instructions that Mark Bolger had outlined and she accepted that perhaps she should have given more specific instructions.

In relation to the race itself, Mrs Harrington said she accepted Mark Bolger had the horse further back than she would have wanted and it was only late in the race the horse suddenly realised what he had to do.  She stressed that she always likes her horses to run as well as they can.  In relation to the ride at Tipperary, Mrs Harrington felt the jockey did give the horse a bad ride but was happy with the way the horse had run.  She was surprised that the horse ran on as well as he did.  She confirmed that the horse was fit and had done plenty of work.  She also said that all her horses are running well at present.

Mrs Harrington felt in hindsight that the horse should have been closer but if he had been bustled along earlier, he may not have finished as well as he did.  She accepted the horse’s run looked bad but it was not a case of using the racecourse as a training ground.  She said one of the reasons it looked bad was because he was passing horses that were stopping.

Having considered the evidence, the Appeals Body found that High Tail It was not given an opportunity of winning or of obtaining the best possible placing and found Mark Bolger in breach of Rule 212 (a)(i).  They also found him breach of Rule 213 (ii) for failing to report the horse had run green throughout the race.

In relation to Mrs John Harrington, the Appeals Body found she was not in breach of Rule 212 as they did not have enough evidence to find a rule breach.  As a result the 42 day suspension imposed on High Tail It was lifted.

The Appeals Body considered submissions made by Andrew Coonan, solicitor, in relation to the penalty that should be imposed on Mark Bolger and having considered these submissions, they reduced the suspension imposed on Mr Bolger for a breach of Rule 212 (a)(i), from seven race days to four race days (May 1st, 2nd 5th and 8th).  They also ordered that he forfeit his riding fee and his appeal deposit.  In relation to the breach of Rule 213 (ii), they cautioned Mr Bolger.

The case was presented by Paul Murtagh, stipendiary steward. Mrs John Harrington and Mark Bolger were represented by Andrew Coonan, Coonan Cawley Solicitors, Naas, Co. Kildare.


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