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Non-compliance with Covid-19 screening protocols a non-runner according to the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board



The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) has insisted that compliance with COVID-19 health screening protocols at racecourses has overall been "very good" despite a number of breaches from high-profile attendees. This is notable as horseracing was the first major sport to resume in Ireland, albeit behind closed doors and pursuant to an extensive COVID-19 safety protocol.
Part of this protocol involves a health screening process, including a temperature check, upon entry to racecourses. This process was not complied with by a champion trainer at the Curragh on Irish 2,000 Guineas day last month. This meeting was the first under the protocols and the trainer said he was not aware of any wrongdoing. Despite the Referrals Committee panel agreeing that there was no malice on the part of the trainer, it was held that they had acted in a manner prejudicial to proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing. Arising from this, the IHRB banned the trainer from racing for the next two weeks along with a fine of €2,500.

The Chief Executive of the Curragh, Pat Keogh, addressed the incident, stating that it was racecourse security as opposed to IHRB personnel who allowed the trainer access through a different gate, than that through which the screening protocols required. Mr Keogh acknowledged that the trainer had done everything right in terms of registration and that it was a mistake on the part of racecourse security that led to the breach for which Mr Keogh put his hands up.

Elsewhere, a trainer and nephew of a champion trainer, was fined €5,000, and prohibited from accessing a racecourse for three months after having been found to have accessed Leopardstown without completing necessary requirements. This occurred after a referrals hearing found the trainer in breach of Rule 272(i) of the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules 2019, as a result of failing to present a correct barcode, a necessary requirement, during the health screening process. Although entry was refused to the racecourse, he was spotted on the premises a few hours later. This was the first breach of the new safety protocol system since it was put into action on 08 June 2020, when Irish horseracing resumed behind closed doors.

A third breach involved an authorized representative of a separate trainer, who was fined €150 and prohibited from entering a racecourse for a month after she accessed Bellewstown in July without necessary requirements.

A spokesman for the IHRB stated that “It is imperative the whole industry works together to keep racing safe by completing the health-screening process and doing so in what is an honest manner adhering to the protocols and directions on race-day…this is what is necessary to keep racing going and complacency cannot be tolerated”.

It is interesting to note that these appear to be the first hearings in this jurisdiction arising from breaches of COVID-19 protocols which are now in place across so many sectors in the country.
 Written by Ciara Hanratty and Ellie Kavanagh. 

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