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Ms. Debbie Hartnett (Handler) Prohibited Substance Referral – Duhallow (F) Kanturk, Dromahane 9th May 2021

The Referrals Committee, Mr. Peter M. Allen (in the chair), Mr. Nicholas Wachman, and Mr. Anthony Byrne convened in the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on Monday, 25th April 2022 to consider whether or not Ms. Debbie Hartnett (Handler) was in breach of any rules of racing as a result of a report received from LGC Laboratories, Newmarket, England.


The report stated the blood sample taken from Babylon Beach following his win in the GAIN Equine Nutrition 6YO+ Maiden on 9th May 2021 at the Duhallow (F) Kanturk Point to Point fixture, was confirmed by LGC Laboratories (LGC) to contain dantrolene. Under Rule 20(v) and Regulation 14 of the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules dantrolene is a prohibited substance.


The option of ‘B’ sample analysis was declined with Ms. Hartnett, thus accepting the result of the ‘A’ Sample.


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


In her evidence, Dr. Hillyer outlined the details of the IHRB investigation. Dantrolene is a substance used in equine veterinary medicine to prevent exertional rhabdomyolysis or ‘tying up’. In recognition of the fact that dantrolene may be used as a therapeutic medicine under veterinary direction, the European Screening Limit of 10pg/ml parent drug in plasma is applied by LGC. The Screening Limit is linked to the published Detection Time of 48 hours for dantrolene as Dantrium at a dose of 500mg for three days, once daily by mouth. Dantrolene is a prohibited substance when confirmed above this screening limit as set out in Rule 20(v) and Regulation 14. Dr. Hillyer relayed that when asked, Ms. Hartnett had immediately confirmed that Babylon Beach was being administered Dantrium tablets for ‘tying up’. The veterinary history of the gelding was presented to the Panel – he had been repeatedly treated with Dantrium on a near continual basis for the seven months preceding the raceday.  Dr Hillyer explained that the withdrawal time associate with such a regimen would likely need to be longer than that for the published 3 day course.  Ms. Harnett suggested that the last dose the horse got was at 7.30am on Thursday 6th May ahead of the race on Sunday 9th May. Ms. Hartnett availed of elective testing in June and July 2021 to try and assess whether she could adjust the regimen of dosing around Babylon Beach’s racing engagements.


In her evidence, Ms. Hartnett stated that she had sought veterinary advice to treat Babylon Beach for ‘tying up’. She said that she had a prescription supplied for Dantrium by Mr. Conor O’Brien and she relied on his advice of a three-day withdrawal period. Ms. Hartnett explained that she continually asked Mr. O’Brien to confirm that the three-day withdrawal was adequate ahead of Babylon Beach’s racing engagements and he confirmed it was. Ms. Hartnett accepted the adverse analytical finding in Babylon Beach and stressed that it had been as a result of not allowing the appropriate withdrawal time. She confirmed that the horse was due to run in July but didn’t until elective tests were taken to confirmthat the horse would not return an adverse analytical finding.


Having considered the evidence, Mr. Allen read out the following decision on behalf of the committee.


“We have considered the matter and I think having regard for the scientific evidence before us, the animal did run on the day with a prohibited substance in it. In that regard, we do find you in breach of Rule 96A. As a consequence, we disqualify the horse from the race in question, order that the stake be forfeited and fine you €1,000. In relation to the circumstances that surround this, we do acknowledge that the substance, which is a licenced product, was administered by you under the instruction from a vet. You did seek veterinary advice in relation to the matter, and while you did administer it knowingly, you were unaware of the effect of following the expert advice of this vet would have on this animal. We do consider in the circumstances, that because you went to such extremes to seek veterinary advice, and as you said yourself that you constantly asked the vet the effects that this would have, that you took all precautions that were available to you to avoid a breach of this rule. Therefore, we intend to waive the fine of €1,000 in these circumstances.”


The result now reads:

First:      Getaway Lodge


The case was presented by Mr. Michael Daly, IHRB Legal Regulatory Advisor.

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