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Vincent Finegan

Vincent Finegan

Nothing to see here

Iva Batt winning a sprint at Naas
© Photo Healy Racing

It took the IHRB two years to investigate the irregular betting trends surrounding the Viking Hoard case in Tramore and even then they couldn’t pin down who actually laid the horse. We are now into the third year of investigations surrounding irregular betting trends on a claiming race that took place at Dundalk in March 2020 with still no sign of a resolution.

With those cases in mind it was interesting to read a stewards’ report into the improvement in form of the Joe Murphy trained Iva Batt when she bolted up in a five furlong sprint handicap at Naas on Saturday. The filly had been well beaten on her first two runs of the season so it was understandable that the stewards would query the betting patterns at Naas where she was punted from 28/1 in the morning to an SP return of 8/1. At the inquiry the stewards not only questioned Murphy about the betting trends, to which he stated he had no knowledge, but they also investigated them in conjunction with the BHA and “were satisfied there were no abnormalities or cause for concern in this regard.” Considering the length of time these betting investigations tend to take it was amazing that this one could be both investigated and concluded in an afternoon.

Another successful gamble was landed last Wednesday evening when most of us were watching Man City get knocked out of the Champions League in a race which took place on the All Weather at Kempton Park. The aptly named Unibet Supporting Safe Gambling Handicap, a bottom of the barrel Class 6 contest over two miles, was won unchallenged by a four-year-old gelding called Charlie’s Yard off a rating of 45. The horse was having its first start in the UK for its new trainer David Evans.

What makes this race particularly interesting is that Charlie’s Yard had previously been in the care of Grand National winning trainer Emmet Mullins. During the horse’s period with Mullins it ran nine times over seven months under both codes and was beaten a total of 364 lengths in those races. In fact the nearest the horse ever finished was back in November at Dundalk where he got within 15 lengths of the winner when coming home in eleventh place in a 1m4f Maiden.

Six different jockeys rode Charlie’s Yard in his Irish races but on no occasion did any of them report anything to the stewards that might have indicated a reason for the horse’s poor performances. He didn’t miss the break, didn’t jump poorly, didn’t race keenly, didn’t hang left or right, all in all he just appeared to be useless.

The stewards themselves never saw anything untoward in those nine Irish outings and the first time there was a steward’s report on the gelding was when he landed a significant gamble at Kempton on Wednesday after being punted from 16/1 to 3/1. The BHA stewards inquired into “the apparent improvement in form of the winner, Charlie’s Yard, which had never previously been placed. David Evans was interviewed. His comments that Charlie’s Yard benefitted from the first time application of cheek pieces, its first run for the yard and first run in a handicap were noted.”

If only Emmet Mullins had thought of trying cheek pieces or running him in a handicap!

Whatever about the stewards failing to spot anything untoward with Charlie’s Yard it was most surprising that the IHRB and/or HRI made no statement or action following the comments of trainer Ted Walsh on RTÉ last week during Punchestown. The veteran broadcaster put his foot in it when reviewing a race on live television, saying that a horse that had refused to jump a bank and unseated its rider was “a dirty rotten so and so . . . I tell you one thing a hiding wouldn’t be good enough for him.”

These were incendiary comments that caused quite a storm on Social Media and while Walsh subsequently apologised I’m surprised that the racing authorities chose to ignore the incident. In the past they have been very quick to get ahead of these types of stories by making statements to say at the very least they are aware of an incident, are looking into it and will speak to the licence holder. Not sure why that didn’t happen this time.

Ted Walsh is one of the highest profile trainers in the country, largely because of his television work, and has always been a staunch defender of the sport. Perhaps that is why he was given a free pass on this occasion or maybe it had something to do with a changing of the guard at both the IHRB and HRI.

Denis Egan’s permanent successor at the IHRB was announced last week. The new CEO, Darragh O’Loughlin, will start in his new role on 29 June. O’Loughlin is a pharmacist by profession and while he has extensive experience within business he is an outsider when it comes to the horse racing industry. Depending on your viewpoint that will either turn out to be an asset or a liability.

Finally, it was nice to see Johnny Murtagh train his first winner for the Aga Khan last week. Murtagh rode many major winners in the famous green silks with red epaulettes and it’s fitting that he is now training them as well. In a twist on Ted Walsh’s famous quip about a winner - “I rode her mother” - Murtagh can boast about his Aga Khan winner Startash that he rode her great grandmother to win a maiden in Clonmel in 2003.

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