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Michael Winters (Trainer) Prohibited Substance Referral – Fairyhouse 10th November 2020

The Referrals Committee, Mr. Justice Raymond Groarke (in the chair), Mr. Peter M. Allen and Mr. N.B. Wachman convened in the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on Monday, 5th July 2021 to consider whether or not Michael Winters (Trainer) was in breach of any rules as a result of a report received from LGC Laboratories, Newmarket, England.


The report stated the urine sample taken from Sayce Gold (GER) following her win in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Point to Point Flat Race on 10th November 2020 at Fairyhouse Racecourse, was confirmed by LGC Laboratories (LGC) to contain triamcinolone acetonide (TCA) above the International Screening Limit of 100 pg/ml. Under Rule 20(v) and Regulation R14 of the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules triamcinolone acetonide is a prohibited substance.


The option of ‘B’ sample analysis was declined.


Evidence was heard from Dr. Lynn Hillyer, IHRB Chief Veterinary Officer and Head of Anti-Doping and Mr. Winters.


In her evidence, Dr. Hillyer outlined the details of the IHRB investigation. LGC confirmed that the urine sample taken from Sayce Gold was positive for TCA with the concentration present exceeding the international screening limit of 100pg/ml. TCA is a corticosteroid anti-inflammatory medication commonly used in equine practice. It has effective anti-inflammatory and painkilling properties and so is often used to treat joint inflammation, sometimes in combination with other medications. It is usually administered intra-articularly (into a joint). There is no published Detection Time for TCA because the doses and sites which may be treated with it are very variable, but a minimum stand-down time of 14 days must be given after any intra-articular administration of a corticosteroid under Rule 87. As a potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic drug, TCA is a prohibited substance on race day under Rule 20(v) Regulation 14 of the Rules of Racing and INHS Rules.


When notified of the adverse analytical finding, Mr. Winters stated that the horse had been administered a medication into both her stifles and he subsequently furnished a report from Mr. Ger Kelly of Fethard Equine Hospital confirming that the horse had been treated with a total of 20 mg of TCA via injections into the medial femorotibial joints on 19thOctober 2020, some 22 days before her race at Fairyhouse. Mr. Winters’ Medicines Register also confirmed the dose and the advised Withdrawal Time.


Dr. Hillyer said that this was likely to be the source of the adverse analytical finding adding that the stifle is a complex joint and can be associated with longer excretion times than might be expected, particularly if it is inflamed or has chronic pathology. In this case, Mr. Kelly confirmed that the horse had previously received key-hole surgery treatment of both stifles.


In her opinion, Dr. Hillyer said that a source for the post-race result was identified but reasonable precautions were not taken by the licensee to avoid the finding because insufficient withdrawal time was allowed to ensure that the medication had sufficiently clear the horse’s system before raceday.


In his evidence, Mr. Winters said that he had relied on the advice of his veterinary surgeon, Mr. Ger Kelly after Sayce Gold had been treated with a total of 20 mg of TCA via injections and that Mr. Kelly had advised him the horse would be fine to run at the fixture in Fairyhouse. Mr. Winters added that he was unaware of the previous treatment that the mare had received to both her stifles as that was when she was in the care of her previous trainer. Mr. Winters stated that he felt he had taken all reasonable precautions by following the advice of Mr. Kelly and noted that Sayce Gold won nine days later at Thurles and did not return an adverse analytical finding.


Having considered the evidence, Justice Groarke read out the following decision on behalf of the committee.


“Mr. Winters had sought and relied on veterinary advice with regard to the time during which the horse should not run. The trainer followed that advice which he had received. It follows that, given the position that Mr. Winters now finds himself, the advice received and applied by him was erroneous.


The trainer is, under Rule 148(i), responsible for the consequences of a breach of the rules and must be penalised accordingly, unless the trainer produces a satisfactory explanation. Rule 96(a) requires that the horse found in breach of the drug concentration level must be disqualified and the stake forfeited. We so order and direct the amendment of the result accordingly.


The result now reads:

First:      The Mean Queen

Second: Eyre Square

Third:    No Fame No Game

Fourth:  Sarahs Secret

Fifth:     Carlotalin

Sixth:   Dinero Falso (GB)


Under the same rule, the Trainer must be fined €1,000, however, under the circumstances, the committee will waive the fine given the special circumstances outlined above.”


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

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