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A.J. Martin (Trainer) Prohibited Substance Referral – Down Royal 25th January 2022

The Referrals Committee, Mr. Laurence McFerran (in the chair), Mr. Anthony Byrne, and Mr. Robert William Steele convened in the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on Thursday, 15th September 2022 to consider whether or not Mr. Tony Martin (Trainer) was in breach of any rules of racing as a result of a report received from LGC Laboratories, Newmarket, England.


The report received on 14th February 2022 stated the blood sample taken from Patsy’s Honour following his win in the Molson Coors INH Flat Race, was confirmed by LGC Laboratories to contain triamcinolone acetonide (TCA). Under Rule 20(v) and Regulation R14 of the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules triamcinolone acetonide is a prohibited substance on a raceday.


The option of ‘B’ sample analysis was declined by Mr. Martin, thus accepting the result of the ‘A’ sample.


Evidence was heard from Mr. Martin, Mr. Donnacha Houlihan, Veterinary Surgeon and Dr. Lynn Hillyer, Head of Anti-Doping and Chief Veterinary Officer.


In her evidence, Dr. Hillyer outlined the details of the IHRB investigation. She explained that an unannounced stable inspection was carried out by IHRB Authorised Officers on 14th February 2022.  During the inspection the Medicines Register was reviewed and whilst there was evidence of records being kept, a period between 18th December 2021 and 3rd January 2022 had no records. Dr. Hillyer stated that Donnacha Houlihan, veterinary surgeon, reported that 10mg TCA had been administered into each of the horse’s femoropatellar joints (stifles) on 21st December alongside 20 ml of Mepidor, a medication containing the local anaesthetic mepivacaine, with the horse also being sedated. Mr. Houlihan relayed that the horse had surgery as a yearling for osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) in the stifle. Dr. Hillyer confirmed that Mr. Martin had left 34 clear days as withdrawal time by after the TCA administration before the raceday.


Dr. Hillyer added that there are a number of possible explanations as to why the medication was present in the blood sample at about one month after the treatment, including that the medication was administered into stifles which are known to be complex joints. Alternatively, it was possibly not administered into the joint but instead into some denser tissue from which its excretion was prolonged or that the other drugs administered on the same day interfered with its excretion and that the gelding’s pre-existing joint pathology prolonged the excretion of the TCA.


Dr. Hillyer explained that presence of the TCA in the blood sample taken post-race reflects the presence of active TCA in the joints administered. She added that the IHRB have gone to some lengths to advise veterinary surgeons and trainers of the risk factors associated with longer excretion times for intra-articular administration of corticosteroids and specifically that, as a consequence, longer withdrawal times must be observed when one or more of them are involved. This advice has been given in the form of roadshows, with the presentation permanently available on the IHRB website, in press releases associated with previous TCA adverse analytical findings, at veterinary meetings and when advice has been sought on an individual basis by trainers and veterinary surgeons.


In his evidence, Mr. Martin confirmed that the horse was treated on 21st December and that Mr. Houlihan had advised him of a 22 days withdrawal time and that he sought further veterinary opinion and was told that the horse would be fine to run after 30 days. Mr. Martin explained that he had considered a number of entries for the horse, but he pushed out to 34 clear days before taking up an engagement at Down Royal. Mr. Martin accepted Dr. Hillyer’s evidence that a combination of factors could have led to a longer excretion time and this was regrettable. In relation to the failure to keep his Medicines Register up to date for a brief period, Mr. Martin explained that he was awaiting correspondence from Mr. Houlihan’s office but that due to Covid-19 and Christmas holidays, Mr. Houlihan’s office was closed.


In his evidence, Mr. Houlihan provided details of previous treatment the horse had received for osteochondritis dissecans. He stated that he treated the horse on the 21st December 2021 and that the horse had responded favourably. Mr. Houlihan said that he was aware of the complexities surrounding TCA and following a number of discussions with Dr. Hillyer he had pushed out his advice for withdrawal times. He said he was aware of the elective testing option available via the IHRB but didn’t think it would be required in this instance with 34 clear days between administration of the substance and the race. Mr. Houlihan also confirmed his office was closed at the time due to Covid-19 and Christmas holidays but gave details of the automated systems he has in place with trainers and also provided WhatsApp messages showing an advised withdrawal time of 22 days for Patsy’s Honour.  


Having considered the evidence, Chairman of the Referrals Committee, Mr. McFerran, read out the following decision on behalf of the committee.


“By virtue of the fact that there was a positive finding and Mr. Martin’s acceptance of that fact, there is a breach of Rule 96(a). We also find that there is a breach of Rule 148(i) in that, as the trainer, Mr. Martin is responsible for everything connected with the welfare, training and running of all horses under his care and there was an opportunity to avail of up to date information which wasn’t taken by Mr. Martin. We don’t believe there was any malice on the behalf of Mr. Martin, however he has responsibilities in this regard. As a consequence, Patsy’s Honour must be disqualified from the race in question, the placings be amended accordingly and the stake is forfeited and we also impose a fine of €1,500 on Mr. Martin. We also find Mr. Martin in breach of Rule 148(iii)(b) in that his Medicines Register was incomplete at the time of the inspection and we impose a fine of €250 in relation to that breach.”



The Amended result of the Molson Coors I.N.H. Flat Race now reads:


First:      Pats Choice

Second: Tenzing

Third:    A Million Bucks

Fourth:  From The Ashes

Fifth:     Amazing Amy


The case was presented by Mr. Michael Daly, IHRB Regulatory Legal Advisor.

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