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Report into the start and subsequent events following “The Celebrating the 2020 ITBA Awards Winners Handicap Hurdle” at Naas on Sunday, 31st January 2021

The Stewards Enquiry

Following the running of the race, the Stewards enquired into an incident at the start where Aarons Day ridden by Liam McKenna, lost significant ground, Shakeytry ridden by Philip Enright, unseated his rider interfering with Sean Says ridden by Kevin Brouder which resulted in Shakeytry and Sean Says taking no subsequent part in the race. The Stewards heard evidence from the riders concerned and from Derek Cullen, IHRB. Starter. Having considered the evidence and the matter, the Stewards referred the matter to Denis Egan, CEO of the IHRB for further investigation.

Background to the race

The race in question was the 5th race at Naas with 18 runners declared. It had an advertised starting time of 2.45pm but following a request from the broadcasters races 1-7 were delayed 5 minutes with the result that the revised starting time for the race was 2.50pm.
Prior to the race, one of the runners Melly And Me got loose and took over 10 minutes to catch. That horse was subsequently withdrawn which left 17 runners. As the race could not start until the loose horse was caught the remaining 17 horses were left walking around at the start for over 15 minutes with the result the race started 13 minutes late at 3.03pm.

Evidence provided to Denis Egan
In preparing this report, the following were interviewed: -
Derek Cullen – Starter
John Jeffers – Starter’s Assistant
Ms. Mary Cosgrave – Chairperson of Stewards
Charles O’Reilly –Steward
Michael O’Donoghue –Steward
Philip Enright – Rider, Shakeytry
Kevin Brouder – Rider, Sean Says
Liam McKenna – Rider, Aarons Day
Liam Walsh – Stewards Secretary
Michael Daly – Stewards Secretary
Tony Mulraney – Clerk of the Scales Assistant

The Start of the Race
During the time Melly And Me was running loose it was decided in the interests of safety to release the starting tape to allow for more room for the horses to walk around at the start. Once the horse was caught, the starter decided that the tape would be released manually by the Starter’s Assistant at ground level rather than connecting it to his starting mechanism. This is a common occurrence following a false start and it was decided in the interests of expediency to start the race in this way. This meant that the Starter’s Assistant would release the tape when the starter dropped his flag to indicate the start of the race.
When the starter was ready, he instructed the riders to turn and approach the marker poles. At this stage it appeared that all horses were facing in the right direction and everything was in order for the race to start. However, as the starter went to raise his flag to indicate that the race was about to begin, the horses began to quicken and simultaneously Shakeytry veered violently right. By the time the starter had raised his flag, Shakeytry was parallel to the tape and blocking Sean Says and Aarons Day. As the starter dropped his flag to signal the start Shakeytry unseats Philip Enright as he is standing in front of Sean Says and partially in the line of Aarons Day. Both Philip Enright and Kevin Brouder confirmed that this was what occurred with Kevin Brouder confirming that he lost all chance at the start and did not take part in the race. Liam McKenna stated that he believed a false start would be called because Philip Enright had been unseated before the tape released. When he realised that this was not happening, he took off after the other runners having lost considerable ground.
The time from the Starter raising his flag to the tape being released by his Assistant was just short of three seconds. The Starter confirmed that at no point while the horses were in the starting area did he hear a shout from any rider to indicate there was a problem.
The IHRB have a loudspeaker system for use at the start to aid communication between the Starter and the riders. All interactions are recorded so as it can be used by the Stewards to assist them should there be an enquiry into the start. Unfortunately, due to the horse getting loose prior to the start for an extended period, this system was disconnected and was inadvertently not reconnected once the Starter had been informed that the loose horse had been caught so the only evidence available was the witness accounts and the video evidence.

The Enquiry following the race
On returning to the Stewards room, which is in a temporary building and alternative configuration due to Covid-19 restrictions, there were two incidents that the Stewards were aware they needed to review – one relating to interference and the other to what occurred at the start. The Stewards initially reviewed the interference incident which involved the second and fifth placed horses in the closing stages of the race. Following the review, the Stewards concluded that the incident would not involve any change in placings. In view of this, the Stewards were satisfied to clear the race at 3.13pm for the purposes of the winner-all-right being announced and the announcement was made at 3.15pm. This was an error as the enquiry into the incidents at the start had not commenced. This represented an unfortunate breakdown in the post-race systems used by the IHRB.
The Stewards then began the Enquiry into the start and heard evidence from the riders concerned and the IHRB Starter, and had the ‘winner-all-right’ not been signalled, they would have had the following options open to them;
i) They could have deemed a fair start had been effected and signalled the ‘winner-all-right’.
ii) Shakeytry and Sean Says could have been declared non-runners under Rule 209(v) if they were of the opinion that they had not started the race due to starter error, and the ‘winner-all-right’ then given
iii) Under Rule 10(ii)(d) the start could be deemed manifestly unfair as a false start should have been called by the Starter and the race declared void.

Having considered all the evidence, the Stewards were unable to reach a decision as the ‘winner-all-right’ had already been given and so the only remaining option open to them was to refer the matter to the CEO of the IHRB.

Findings following the referral
• The Start
i) The Starter now accepts that a false start should have been called. In acknowledging this, the IHRB notes that there was a considerable amount of activity at the start which was compounded by the delay and tight nature of the starting area where the horses had congregated.

In the Starter’s defence the events occurred in a window of just less than three seconds. However, despite this, it is accepted that once the Starter realised there was a problem there was sufficient time for him to signal to the advance flagman to raise his white flag and call a false start.

ii) There was a delay from the time the Starter dropped his flag to the Starter’s Assistant releasing the tape. Despite this there was still time to call a false start which was another opportunity missed.

• The Enquiry
i) The Acting Stewards should have called a Stewards Enquiry as soon as it was apparent that there may be a problem at the start which had the potential to affect the race result. There were a number of missed opportunities to make this announcement.
ii) Once the ‘winner-all-right’ was given prematurely and in error by the Stewards this hindered their ability to make any decision following conclusion of the enquiry into what occurred at the start.

i) In the event that the tape is released prior to the start, the Starter should communicate clearly with the riders as to how the race will now be started.

The options are: -
a) they must wait for tape to be reconnected or
b) that the tape will be released by the Assistant on his signal or
c) the race will be started by flag,
ii) The Starter must ensure the loudspeaker and recording equipment is used wherever provided.
iii) If the Starter has any doubt about the fairness of the start, he must call a false start.
iv) Prior to the commencement of any enquiry, the Stewards should confirm whether or not the enquiry may affect the result and if there is any possibility that it may, a Stewards Enquiry should be announced over the PA system giving details of what the enquiry relates to.
v) Races should only be cleared by the stewards and the ‘winner-all-right’ announced when all enquires relating to anything that might affect the result have been concluded.
vi) All Stewards should discuss and approve the announcement of the ‘winner-all-right’ before clearance is given to make the announcement.
vii) The Clerk of the Scales Assistant will state clearly on entering the Stewards Room that he is seeking authorisation to signal the ‘winner-all-right’
viii) The IHRB are continuing to liaise with their employees into the whole matter in line with our established HR procedures.
ix) The findings of this report have been communicated to all relevant officials and stewards. All necessary steps have been taken to mitigate against any future occurrences.

Denis Egan stated: “The IHRB unreservedly apologise to everyone that was affected by this unfortunate incident. An error at the start was compounded by errors made post-race. While it is accepted that human errors will occur from time to time, systems are in place to minimise the chances of such errors occurring, and to address them if they happen. The systems did not work on this occasion and we commit to taking the necessary steps to avoid anything similar happening in future. I have apologised to the Trainers of the three affected horses and they have acknowledged that what arose was due to human error. The Stewarding Committee will continue to monitor significant decisions, including what occurred in this instance and provide feedback to Stewards and Officials to ensure consistency and the highest standards of stewarding.

Note to editor: A Stewards Enquiry is only announced over the public address when it is envisaged that the outcome of the Enquiry may alter the judge’s placings and delay the signalling of the ‘winner-all-right’. There are many times when a Stewards Enquiry may be held without notification going out over the public address. Examples of such enquires would include whip offences, running and riding enquiries, marker pole infringements or incidents that are deemed not to have affected the judge’s placings.


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