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Vincent O’Brien (Stable Employee) - Killarney, 14th May 2017


The Referrals Committee, Justice Tony Hunt (in the Chair), Philip Caffrey and N.B. Wachman met at the Crown Plaza Hotel, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15 on Thursday, 5th October 2017 to consider whether or not Vincent O’Brien was in breach of any rules as a result of an incident which occurred at Killarney Racecourse on 14th May 2017. On the day an incident occurred involving Mr O’Brien during the loading of a racehorse and the Referrals Committee were asked to consider whether or not Mr O’Brien’s actions were prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing contrary to the provisions of Rule 272(i).

The matter had been referred to the Referrals Committee, by Cliodhna Guy, Head of Licensing, Legal and Compliance.

Evidence was heard from Christopher Gordon, Turf Club Head of Security, Vincent O’Brien, Bernard Caldwell, Chief Executive Irish Stable Staff Association, and Michael Grassick, Chief Executive, Irish Racehorse Trainers Association. The committee also considered transcripts of interviews with witnesses to the incident and noted comments regarding the incident from Tom Taaffe, trainer/employer of Mr O’Brien. Video footage of the incident was also viewed.

In his evidence Christopher Gordon gave details of his interview with Vincent O’Brien who had accepted some of the allegations but disputed others.

In his evidence Vincent O’Brien accepted that he was the person filmed in the video and agreed that he should not have taken the course of action he did. He also referred to the lack of loading facilities at Killarney Racecourse which contributed to the problem.

In his evidence Bernard Caldwell was critical of the lack of proper loading facilities at Killarney and suggested that the location of where the horse was being loaded contributed to what occurred.

Michael Grassick agreed with Bernard Caldwell with regard to the absence of loading facilities and was also critical of the lack of space in the loading area.

In his written submission, Tom Taaffe said that Vincent O’Brien was an excellent employee and referred to the incident as unfortunate.

Having considered the evidence, the Referrals Committee found that Vincent O’Brien was in breach of Rule 272(i). In arriving at an appropriate penalty, the Referrals Committee said they needed to take into account the facilities which Mr O’Brien was trying to work with at Killarney and noted that there was a similar lack of loading facilities at other racecourse. They asked that the Licensing Committee carry out a review of loading facilities at all racecourses.

The committee noted that there were alternatives available to Mr O’Brien which may have alleviated the difficulties that had arisen. They said it was not a good idea that loading was taking place during a race and the horse should have been taken to the stableyard at an earlier stage to be loaded. They said that everyone involved in racing must be aware of the perception of incidents such as this and the potential damage that such incidents can cause to the good reputation of racing.

In imposing penalty the committee said that they had to take into account Mr O’Brien’s conduct and his individual circumstances. They noted that he was a part-time employee of Mr Taaffe’s and as such any penalty needed to reflect this.

They felt that an appropriate starting point for what occurred was a suspension of 14 days but in view of Mr O’Brien’s guilty plea and taking into account his individual circumstances, they imposed a penalty preventing him accessing the stableyard for 7 days commencing on 12th October 2017.

The case was presented by Cliodhna Guy, Head of Licensing, Legal and Compliance.

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