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Ambrose McCurtin (Rider) / John J. Walsh (Trainer) / Davids Charm Referral Killarney - 16th May 2016


The Referrals Committee Justice Tony Hunt (in the Chair), N.P. Lambert and N.B. Wachman met at the Turf Club, The Curragh, Co Kildare on Tuesday, 24th May 2016 to consider whether or not Ambrose McCurtin and John J. Walsh (rider and trainer respectively of Davids Charm), were in breach of any Rules having been referred following the running of the La Na gClub Maiden Hurdle at Killarney on 16th May 2016. On the day the Stewards referred the running and riding of Davids Charm to the Referrals Committee in accordance with Rule 14(ii).

Evidence was heard from Hugh Hynes, stewards secretary, John J. Walsh, Ambrose McCurtin, and Joan Taylor, Turf Club veterinary officer. The Committee also considered a transcript of evidence given at the original enquiry and reviewed film of the race.

In his evidence Hugh Hynes outlined the background to the calling of the enquiry by the Stewards at Killarney. He said they had no concerns with the way the horse was ridden early on in the race and he noted the horse had jumped big at a number of the earlier hurdles. However, in the latter stages of the race the Stewards became concerned at the way the horse was ridden and in particular they noted the rider appeared to have heavy contact on the reins and his whip use looked like it was for show rather than effect. He said the use of the whip and the manner of riding raised concerns. He concluded by saying the rider concerned has ridden plenty of winners and is capable of riding to a higher standard.

In his evidence John J. Walsh outlined the background to the horse. He said he has had the horse in training since November and he wasn’t the easiest horse to train. He said he is an excitable horse that is full of energy. He eventually got Davids Charm to the track in May and the horse was well schooled. The horse ran at Killarney as it was his owner’s local track. The horse was ready to run and had schooled very well over EasyFix Hurdles.

Mr Walsh said the horse became excitable in the parade ring prior to the race, but he settled when he went out onto the track. The instructions to the rider were to settle the horse early and then get into it as the race progressed and to do his best. He said the horse never appeared to be on the bridle and that the rider was squeezing the horse along during the race.

Mr Walsh said he was concerned at Ambrose McCurtin’s riding from the turn in. He now felt differently today than he did at Killarney, as he had reviewed the race video in detail since then. He was not fully satisfied with the rider, but expressed the view that if the jockey had been any harder on the horse he wouldn’t have finished any nearer. He could understand why the rider rode the horse the way he did particularly in view of the difficulties he experienced between the second last and the last hurdle.

Mr Walsh said he had the horse examined by his veterinary surgeon the next morning. The examination showed the horse had pulled out stiff and following an endoscopic examination, mucus and blood was found in his trachea. The vet also found abrasions/scratches on the inside of both hocks with some congealed blood on the side of both cannons. Mr Walsh confirmed this examination took place at mid-day. He concluded by stating that in his 54 years as a trainer he has never been involved in a running and riding case before.

In his evidence Ambrose McCurtin accepted the instructions were as outlined by John J. Walsh. He said he was chasing the leaders to keep his position during the race and that his mount was under pressure from the fourth last home. He had squeezed the horse along with no immediate response. On the turn into the straight, he hit the horse twice and on both occasions he ran away from the whip. He said the horse got a bad bump at the third last and he was trying to keep him straight after that which is why he had a tight hold of the reins. He stated that the horse went to run out at the second last which is why he had to pull violently on the reins to get him back on line.

Mr McCurtin referred to his stick use and confirmed it was used as a corrective measure to keep the horse straight. He said he was not trying to deceive anybody and was trying to use the whip as best he could on a horse that was showing signs of inexperience. Mr McCurtin expressed the view that even if he had been harder on the horse, he was only ever going to be third. In conclusion, he confirmed that the horse felt fine during the race.

In her evidence Ms Joan Taylor gave details of the post race examination which she carried out on Davids Charm. She said the horse was blowing hard post race and noted some cuts on his hind legs. She described the blowing as “short sharp blows” which in her opinion could have been caused by a number of reasons, and not necessarily by anything which happened in the race. She felt that if the mucus had affected the horse’s performance during the race he would not have finished as strongly as he did.

Having considered the evidence the Committee noted the explanations given by John J. Walsh and took no further action. In arriving at their decision the Committee found that the veterinary report submitted by Mr Walsh was not relevant.

In relation to Ambrose McCurtin, they found that the ride was substandard which they attributed to an error in judgement rather than anything else. They noted the explanation Mr McCurtin gave and strongly advised him to make greater effort in the future.

The case was presented by Paul Murtagh, Turf Club Stewards Secretary. Ambrose McCurtin and John J. Walsh were represented by Kevin Power, Maurice Power Solicitors, Kilmallock, Co Limerick.

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