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J.P. Berry (Handler) Prohibited Substance Referral – Golden Vale (F) Turtulla, 21st November 2021

The Referrals Committee, Mr. Justice Tony Hunt (in the chair), Mr. Nicholas Wachman, and Mr. Laurence McFerran convened in the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on Thursday, 26th August 2022 to consider whether or not Mr. J.P. Berry (Handler) was in breach of any rules as a result of a report received from LGC Laboratories, Newmarket, England.

The report received on 2nd December 2021 stated the blood sample taken from Focus Point following his win in the Quinlan Transport, Centenary Agri & Dew Valley Foods 5YO Geldings Maiden on the 21st November 2021, was confirmed by LGC Laboratories to contain flufenamic acid. Under Rule 20(v) and Regulation 14 of the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules flufenamic acid is a prohibited substance.

The option of ‘B’ sample analysis was declined by Mr. Berry, who in doing so accepted the results of the analysis of the ‘A’ sample.                 

Evidence was heard from Mr. Berry 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 flufenamic acid is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug which is not licensed for use in the horse and human preparations are available in both oral and topical form. Dr. Hillyer added that while not now common as the parent drug, flufenamic acid is an active metabolite of etofenamate. As flufenamic acid is not licensed for use in the horse, there is no screening limit for it.

Dr. Hillyer said that as part of the investigation, Mr. Berry informed her that he had administered a rub for a sore joint and subsequently sent a photograph of the tube of Etoflam which he had used on the Thursday and Friday prior to the horse running on the Sunday.

In his evidence, Mr. Berry explained that the horse had schooled over fences on Wednesday prior to his run on Sunday. He said that he felt a sore joint after the schooling session and he got his vet to have a look at the horse. Mr. Berry stated that his vet suggested no action was required but that he had suggested to the vet using Etoflam and the vet said that he could apply some sparingly. Mr. Berry accepted that he administered it himself on the Wednesday and Thursday prior to the horse running and suggested that he had possibly given Dr. Hillyer the wrong days when speaking to her previously.

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

“The findings in the sample established a breach of Rule 96(a), for which the trainer is responsible under the provisions of Rule 148(i).  Therefore, the Committee ordered that the horse be disqualified from the race in question, that the Judges placings be amended accordingly, and that the winning stake be forfeited.

As to the sanction on the Handler, the Committee noted that this was the first breach of this Rule by him and that the IHRB had rightly not pressed for the in the suspension of his permit in the  circumstances of this case. However, the Committee noted that this type of sanction would be applicable in an appropriate case involving a second such offence or a particularly serious first offence. 

The Committee decided that the breach in this case merited the imposition a fine, in the clear absence of the taking of reasonable precautions by the trainer to avoid this breach. The Committee noted that the minimum fine for this offence is €1,000.  However, the Committee found that this was case of more than minimum culpability by reason of the fact although the trainer took very limited veterinary advice before acting as he did, as set out by this evidence, he had not complied with that advice which recommended one application on the Wednesday before the race. The Committee accepted, on the basis of Dr Hillyer’s evidence, that the level of substance found in the blood sample justified a finding as a matter of probability that the substance had been administered by the trainer after the Wednesday and closer to the day of the race.  

Therefore, the Committee was satisfied that this offence involved a significant want of due care and attention to the correct administration of substances to a horse about to engage in competition and imposed a fine of €2,500 in respect of the breach of Rule 96(a). In addition, the Committee found a distinct and separate breach of the obligation to keep a correct Medicines Register under Rule 148(iii) and imposed fine of €250 in that regard.”

The result of the McCabes Bar & Lounge 6yo+ Maiden now reads:

First:    Masked Crusader (FR)

Second: Ahaknowyerself

Third:   McMurroughs Court

Fourth:    One Tree Hill (FR)

The case was presented by Ms. Cliodhna Guy, IHRB Head of Licensing, Legal & Compliance.

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