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B.J. Geraghty (rider), A.J. Martin (trainer), J.P. McManus (owner) Appeals Limerick – 3rd April 2016


The Appeals Body (Division Two) Justice Tony Hunt (in the chair), Martin P. O’Donnell and T.L. Crawford met at the Turf Club, The Curragh, Co Kildare on Monday, 18th April 2016 to consider the appeals of Barry Geraghty (rider), A.J. Martin (trainer) and J.P. McManus (owner), against the decision of the Stewards at Limerick on 3rd April 2016 following the running of the Bookonline Limerick Handicap Hurdle. On the day Barry Geraghty was suspended for 30 race days and ordered to forfeit his riding fee as the Stewards found that he was in breach of Rule 212 having failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures to give his mount Noble Emperor a full opportunity to win or obtain its best possible place. In addition, A.J. Martin was found in breach of Rule 212 and was fined €3,000 and Noble Emperor was suspended for 60 days.

B.J. Geraghty’s grounds of appeal was that he did not breach Rule 212. His horse Noble Emperor was allowed to run on its merits and was ridden to obtain the best possible placing and that at no stage did he intend to ride the horse in any other way other than to obtain its best possible placing.

A.J. Martin’s grounds of appeal was that he did not instruct the rider to prevent the horse from obtaining its best possible placing and that veterinary evidence has come to hand that was not available for consideration by the Acting Stewards.

J.P. McManus’s grounds of appeal was that he, as the owner of the horse, was being unfairly penalised by the Acting Stewards for the alleged conduct of other parties.

Evidence was heard from B.J. Geraghty, Brian O’Connell (rider of Cliff House), Don McLean and A.J. Martin.

Film of the race was also viewed in conjunction with film of Noble Emperor’s previous races at Fairyhouse on 1st January 2015, Punchestown on 31st December 2015, Gowran Park on 21st January 2016 and Gowran Park on 21st November 2015.

In his evidence B.J. Geraghty said his instructions were to settle close to the pace and obtain cover. The horse was ridden in this manner on 11 of his previous 14 starts. The horse was inclined to do too much during a race if he did not obtain cover and it was important that he had him relaxed and settled.

In relation to the race in question, B.J. Geraghty was aware that Velocity Boy was fancied and was further aware that Cliff House was a danger. He had planned to lie behind Cliff House during the race in order to settle him during running.

In relation to running, he stated that Noble Emperor jumped off quietly and was relaxed. He settled behind Cliff House which was the plan, but was concerned that Velocity Boy had raced into a substantial early lead in the race. He said that had he pursued the winner at that stage, his horse would not have lasted the distance and consequently he decided to track behind Cliff House. When the runners turned out of the back straight on the second circuit, he continued to track Cliff House down the hill and maneuvered his mount to challenge whereupon the horse made some progress on the winner. However, Velocity Boy kicked on again and when he applied pressure to Noble Emperor he kept on at the same pace and made little impression from the second last to the finishing line.

B.J. Geraghty believed he could not have won the race in the circumstances and would have been closer if he had to ride the race again, but was of the opinion he would not have beaten the winner on the day. He reiterated that if he had pursued the winner at an earlier stage he would not have finished closer and probably would have finished fourth or fifth. The race, he intimated, was run at a fast pace.

B.J. Geraghty referred to some of the horse’s previous runs and in particular a race at Naas in March 2015, where the horse was lit up early on and fell at the third fence. He said the optimum way to ride the horse was to settle and cover him. In an ideal world he would prefer to have been closer and in the circumstances this was not achievable on the day. He was happy with the horse’s position at the start and reiterated that it was not an option for him to chase the winner.

In response to a number of questions posed by Louis Weston, B.J. Geraghty said he accepted “the winner got too much rope” during the early stages of the race. He was aware that Velocity Boy would lead the race and fancied Noble Emperor to win. He was aware that Velocity Boy had won at Limerick on a previous occasion. With regard to his instructions, he said he could not have ridden his horse closer to the pace with cover and as the race unfolded would have preferred if the field had sat closer to the pace. He tried to make progress from three out, but was unable to take the horse off the bridle at that point as he would not have gotten home. He suggested his only option of winning was if the winner had stopped and suggested that his horse was flat to the boards turning into the straight when he was asked for a maximum effort. There was little response at that stage.

In response to a question from the Chairman, B.J. Geraghty stated he did not have another option with regard to the way he rode the horse and reiterated that if he had chased the winner early on he would have finished in fourth or fifth position.

In his evidence Brian O’Connell outlined events. He said that he sat in third place during the race and decided to chase the winner as the field came down the hill having turned out of the back straight on the second circuit. In hindsight he said it was the wrong option, as his horse did not finish out the race. The race rode at a strong pace and he would not have beaten the winner under any circumstances. His instructions were to challenge last but it was not possible to do so in the context of how the race was run. He had to ignore his instructions to present his horse with a winning opportunity, but that his mount had used up all of his energy in trying to do so.

In his evidence Don McLean referred to the timings for all two mile hurdle races run at Limerick in 2016. He said the race in question was the fastest two mile hurdle race run at Limerick this year and was run at a consistent pace. He outlined the various sectional times which he had estimated from recordings of the race.

In his evidence A.J. Martin said that this was Noble Emperor’s fourteenth race. He described him as a very keen, free running horse that could be difficult and hard to hold. He reiterated the instructions given to B.J. Geraghty and said he knew early on that his race plan was not going to work. He said that the winner “stole” the race in the early stages and in his opinion if Noble Emperor had chased Velocity Boy, he would not have won. He said he thought the horse had a good chance of winning and while it was up to B.J. Geraghty to decide what to do in the context of how the race was run, he felt he should have been closer to the winner but even if he was, it would have made little difference. He was disappointed with the way the race unfolded and suggested the rider should have pursued Velocity Boy at an earlier stage and by following Cliff House, he had followed the wrong horse. He accepted the race was over at an early stage when Velocity Boy got an uncontested lead.

Having considered the evidence, the Appeals Body noted that the race was unsatisfactory in the context of the way it was run. It was clear that Noble Emperor’s opportunity of winning had dissipated from a very early stage and in the circumstances second place was the best possible placing he could have achieved. They had to address whether or not Barry Geraghty made an error of judgement, and if he had done so, was there a breach of Rule 212. Their decision was based upon events as the race unfolded and whether or not different tactics were used, would the horse have obtained a better placing. In their view they were not satisfied that different tactics would have given the horse any opportunity to win and accepted that the horse did not have any opportunity to win the race at any relevant time. They noted that when maximum pressure was applied to Noble Emperor, it only produced a modest reaction and in the context of how the race was run, the opinion of the Appeals Body was that the horse’s best possible finishing position was second. On that basis they allowed all the appeals.

Barry Geraghty was represented by Stephen Lanigan-O’Keeffe S.C. instructed by Andrew Coonan, Coonan Cawley Solicitors, Naas, Co Kildare, A.J. Martin was represented by Eugene Gleeson S.C. instructed by Kevin Power, Maurice Power Solicitors, Kilmallock, Co Limerick. J.P. McManus was represented by Patrick Kennedy, Patrick J.O’Meara & Co Solicitors, Thurles, Co Tipperary. The case was presented by Louis Weston, Barrister, instructed by Conal Boyce, Solicitor, Naas, Co Kildare.

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