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Neill McCluskey (Trainer) Appeal – Downpatrick 2 April 2023

The Appeals Body, Justice Brian McGovern (Chairperson), Mr Laurence McFerran and Mr Nicholas Wachman, convened at the offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on Wednesday, 28 February 2024 to consider the appeal of Mr Neill McCluskey (Trainer) following the decision of the Referrals Committee on 3 October 2023.

At the referral hearing, the Referrals Committee found Mr McCluskey in breach of the following rules:

Rule 96(a) in respect of an adverse analytical finding following I Don’t Get It’s win in the Tote Always SP Or Better at Downpatrick Hurdle on 2 April 2023

Rule 148(i) in that he failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for the adverse finding

Rule 148(iii)(b) in that he failed to maintain an up to date Veterinary Medicines Register

Rule 87(vii)(d) for administering a substance other than feed or water which was not approved on Raceday

Rule 272(i) for behaving in a manner which is prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing; and

Rule 273(i) for the administration or the facilitation of administration of a Prohibited Substance to a horse under his care and control as a licenced trainer.

Mr McCluskey submitted an appeal against the severity of sanctions imposed in respect of Rule 96(a), Rule 148(i), Rule 87(vii)(d), Rule 272(i) and Rule 273(i). Furthermore, Mr McCluskey appealed the findings of Rule 148(i) and Rule 272(i) against him.

The Appeals Body considered a submission by Patrick Kennedy, solicitor, which stated that he had been instructed by Mr McCluskey in respect of this appeal after Mr McCluskey had himself filed the appeal. Mr Kennedy stated that he had had not heard from his client for a considerable period of time since December despite numerous attempts to make contact with him. Mr Kennedy stated that he had no instructions from his client and sought to be permitted to come off record in this case.

Having considered the submission from Mr Kennedy and reviewed the transcript of the Referrals Committee hearing, the decision given by Justice Brian McGovern on behalf of the Appeals Body is set out below.

“The Appeals Committee has considered the matter, and we are satisfied that the appellant Mr McCluskey was on notice of the hearing, he had instructed a solicitor who was here and hasn’t been able to contact his client over some period of time. That is the fault of and responsibility of his client. We are satisfied that having instructed a solicitor and the solicitor being aware of the hearing that proper notice was given to Mr. McCluskey and we are entitled to deal with this appeal. In the absence of any appearance of Mr McCluskey the committee has acceded to the request by his solicitor to come off record.

The Committee dismisses the appeal and affirms the order of the Referrals Committee with the following modification: The period of suspension of Mr. McCluskey’s licence which was fixed from 1st of December 2023 should now commence on the 1st of March 2024.

The Board has made an application for costs incurred in dealing with this appeal and are seeking a sum of €5,000 in respect of its costs. Having heard what was urged on behalf of the IHRB by Ms Guy, the Appeals Committee accedes to that application and awards the sum of €5,000 in costs in respect of the appeal to the IHRB. The Appeals Committee also directs that the deposit of €500 by the appellant in respect of this appeal be forfeited.”

The case was presented by Ms Clíodhna Guy, IHRB Head of Licensing, Legal and Compliance.

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