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Miss Ellmarie Holden (Restricted Trainer)/Rachael Blackmore (Rider)/ Look Closer Appeals – Fairyhous


The Appeal Body (Division 1) Joseph Finnegan (in the chair), N.B. Wachman and M.C. Hickey met at the Turf Club, The Curragh, Co. Kildare on Thursday, 16th February 2017 to consider the appeals of Miss Ellmarie Holden, Restricted Trainer and Rachael Blackmore, Rider against the decision of the Stewards at Fairyhouse on 4th February 2017.

On the day, following the running of the Coolmore Leading Light & Ocovango Maiden Hurdle, the Stewards found that there was a breach of Rule 212A(ii) and fined Miss Ellmarie Holden €2,000, Look Closer was suspended for 42 days and Rachael Blackmore was suspended for 5 race days and ordered to forfeit her riding fee.

Appeals were lodged by both parties. Miss Holden’s grounds of appeal were that at all stages, she instructed her jockey to ride her horse to obtain the best possible position and at no stage was it ever the intention of the trainer that the horse would be run other than on its merits.

Miss Blackmore’s grounds of appeal were that she was not in breach of Rule 212 and at all times, it was her intention throughout the riding of the race to obtain the best possible placing for her horse, Look Closer.

Evidence was heard from Miss Ellmarie Holden, Rachael Blackmore, Donagh Meyler (who rode Look Closer on his two previous outings over hurdles) and Michael Sadlier, Troytown/Grey Abbey Equine Veterinary Services. Film of the race was also viewed as was film of the horse’s previous runs at Naas on 28th January 2017 and Fairyhouse on 15th January 2017. The Appeals Body also noted the contents of veterinary reports relating to Look Closer which had been submitted by Michael Sadlier in advance of the hearing.

In her evidence Miss Ellmarie Holden gave details of her career to date and said she had never been before the Stewards prior to the Fairyhouse enquiry. She said Look Closer had been bought at the Goffs November Sale and had previously won a race on the flat.

Miss Holden referred to Look Closer’s previous two runs over hurdles, where on both occasions he was ridden by Donagh Meyler. She said the horse had failed to stay on both occasions and she felt this was due to the horse being ridden aggressively. As a result she decided that the horse would be given an easier ride at Fairyhouse with a view to ensuring that he finished his race better. She said that while the whip was used at both Naas and Fairyhouse, it didn’t appear to work.

With regard to the race under review, Miss Holden said that her instructions to Rachael Blackmore were to sit in handy, save a little bit for home and gallop to the line. She reiterated that she hoped the change in tactics would have enabled the horse to finish out his race better and build up his confidence.

Miss Holden said she accepted that an outsider would understand why the Stewards had to ask questions about the horse’s performance but she knew the rider would have a good explanation for it. Miss Holden said she had used Rachael Blackmore’s services on a number of occasions and that Rachael had ridden winners for her. After the race, she said that Rachael Blackmore reported to her that the horse was just tired and couldn’t find any more. She said the horse had a nice blow after the race and referred to the fact that when examined by the Turf Club veterinary officer, the horse was found to be 1 out of 5 lame on the right hind.

Miss Holden said they called to Troytown Veterinary Hospital on the way home with the horse and the horse remained there until the following Thursday. She said he is back home and exercising on the walker now.

Miss Holden confirmed that she was satisfied with the ride on the day and that she still was.

Miss Holden referred to the fact that the horse had run 3 times in a 20 day period and her view was that if a horse is fit and healthy, there is no reason not to run. She said she wanted to run the horse over hurdles after getting him schooled and denied that the purpose of the 3 quick runs in succession was to get a handicap mark.

In response to questions from Louis Weston, Miss Holden denied that the horse was not fully fit even though she had told the Stewards at Fairyhouse that he was 90% to 95% fit. She said this was the way she would normally have her horses. Miss Holden accepted the rider should have put Look Closer under some pressure 5 furlongs from home and she accepted that it was only after the last hurdle that the rider asked the horse for more effort. When questioned as to why the horse was having its third run on soft to heavy ground, when its best form on the flat was on good to firm ground, Miss Holden said that Donagh Meyler had said the ground was not a problem for the horse on his first two runs over hurdles, so there was no reason not to run him on similar ground.

Following further re-examination by Miss Holden’s legal representative Patrick Kennedy and on further review of the video, Miss Holden said that the rider did make efforts from the second last hurdle to the finishing line rather than the last hurdle, as she previously indicated.

In her evidence, Rachael Blackmore said her instructions were to get the horse to finish out better than on the previous two occasions. She said she was told to sit in, hold on to the horse and try to finish out the race and let him run the best he can. She said she was pleased with the horse throughout the race even though he made a few novicy jumps. She referred to what she told the Stewards on the day which was that the horse could not stretch out in the latter stages of the race. She said she could not have finished any closer to the winner.

Miss Blackmore said she could understand the concerns of the Stewards with regard to the way she rode the horse in view of the fact that it was the horse’s third run in a maiden hurdle, however she said if she wanted to stop the horse, she would have ridden him in the same way as the previous two runs and he would have dropped away. She said she rode Look Closer to give him the best chance of obtaining the best possible placing and that riding him closer in the previous races did not work. She accepted that she could have used her stick and if she did, she would probably not have been in front of the Stewards. She said she decided to ride him out hands and heels and that she also shouted at the horse. She reiterated that the horse was not picking up or stretching. Miss Blackmore accepted she did not feel that the horse was lame during the race but reiterated the horse was not stretching out. Her intention at all times was to obtain the best possible placing.

Miss Blackmore said she was familiar with the horse and that she had ridden him out at home on two or three occasions. She said the horse was fit.

Miss Blackmore referred to discussions she had with Ray Cody (Miss Holden’s assistant trainer) who led the horse on to the track. She said the instructions given to her by Mr Cody mirrored those given by Miss Holden, which were to be handy and settle him in. Miss Blackmore accepted that there was no mention of being “handy” at the Stewards enquiry and that she had interpreted this instruction as “sitting in and taking her time”. She went on to say that she would have known which horses to follow during the race and that she received no instructions about using or not using the whip. She agreed she made no post race report to the stewards’ secretaries or at scales as there was nothing to report. Miss Blackmore accepted that she put the horse under more pressure after the last and that she had stopped holding on to him at that time. She felt that if she had applied maximum pressure between the last two hurdles that the horse could have fallen at the last.

Miss Blackmore’s riding style was reviewed and she accepted she was more aggressive on Ex Patriot (trained by Miss Holden) which won the race at Fairyhouse on 15th January 2017. Look Closer had also run in the same race but she said the circumstances of that race were different, as Ex Patriot had a chance of winning which was why her style was different.

In his evidence, Donagh Meyler referred to the horse’s previous two runs and said the horse had given him a nice feel to the third last on both occasions. He said the horse did not finish out as well as he should have and in his opinion the horse was fit. He said he advised Miss Holden that in future races the horse should be dropped out last and that the rider should not move on the horse until the latter stages of the race.

Michael Sadlier gave evidence of Look Closer being brought to Troytown Veterinary Hospital on the evening of the race. He said when the horse was trotted, he found him to be lame behind which he graded 2 out of 5. He said the horse was examined the following morning and he noted the lameness had worsened. He referred to the horse’s condition and the particular type of lameness. He said this lameness could be responsible for a poor performance and that the horse may not have stretched out during the race because of the lameness.

Having considered the evidence, the Appeals Body referred to the requirements of the Rule, namely the overall obligation on all persons who have any involvement with the running and riding of a horse in a race to ensure that the horse concerned runs on its merits and is also seen, to a reasonable and informed member of the racing public, to have been run on its merits. They also referred to the provisions of Rule 212 A (ii) which stresses the importance of any rider or other person who either rides a horse in a race or causes, contributes to or permits the running and/or riding of a horse in a race to ensure that the horse is seen to have been the subject of a genuine attempt to obtain from the horse timely, real and substantial efforts to achieve the best possible place.

They said the key issue to be decided upon in this case was if the rider of Look Closer is seen to be making a genuine attempt to obtain from the horse timely, real and substantial efforts to achieve the best possible place. They also referred to the veterinary evidence which in their view was not relevant or helpful in the case. They felt that the way the horse was ridden, wasn’t affected by any condition which was obvious at the time, and that the horse was not ridden before the second last with the same vigour as other horses racing around it and in their view this was a quiet ride. They also noted that this was the trainer’s view when watching the race.

Having taken all the evidence into account, the Appeals Body said they were not satisfied that the rider complied with the requirements of Rule 212 and that the horse was seen to run on its merits. They were also satisfied that the Stewards did not err in any way in arriving at their decision and as such they dismissed both appeals.

Following a number of submissions on penalty, the Appeals Body confirmed the original penalties namely a fine of €2,000 on Miss Ellmarie Holden, the suspension of Look Closer for 42 days and Rachael Blackmore for 5 race days and the forfeit of her riding fee. They also ordered both deposits be forfeited and that the appellants contribute a further €500 towards Turf Club costs in equal shares.

The case was presented by Louis Weston, Barrister. Miss Ellmarie Holden was represented by Patrick Kennedy, PJ O’Meara & Co Solicitors, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Rachael Blackmore was represented by Andrew Coonan, Coonan Cawley Solicitors, Naas, Co. Kildare.

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