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Charles Byrnes lodges appeal after getting six-month ban in Viking Hoard case

Fri 22 Jan 2021

Trainer Charles Byrnes has lodged an appeal against the decision of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board to suspend his licence for six months and fine him €1,000 after one of his horses tested positive for a banned substance.

The Byrnes-trained Viking Hoard was pulled up at Tramore on October 18, 2018, after which a urine sample was found to contain hydroxyethylpromazinehydroxide (HEPS), a metabolite of acepromazine (ACP), which is a sedative and prohibited under the rules of racing.

The IHRB Referrals Committee held a hearing via Zoom on January 7, with the authority informing Byrnes of its decision on Monday before issuing a 14-page written judgement to support its conclusions.

However, the IHRB added it had “been advised that the trainer will be lodging an appeal against this decision”, and the lodging of that appeal was confirmed to the PA news agency by the IHRB on Friday.

The IHRB Referrals Commmittee hearing was held via Zoom on January 7, with the authority informing Byrnes of its decision on Monday before issuing a 14-page written judgement to support its conclusions.

Evidence was heard from Dr Lynn Hillyer, IHRB chief veterinary officer and head of anti-doping, Declan Buckley, IHRB deputy head of Security, Byrnes and Vincent O’Connor, veterinary surgeon.

Charles Byrnes is set to appeal against the decision
Charles Byrnes is set to appeal against the decision

The committee heard that Viking Hoard drifted from odds of 4-1 to a starting price 8-1 for the Waterford & Tramore Racecourse On Facebook Handicap Hurdle, with the horse receiving a reminder after jumping the first before being pulled up before the seventh hurdle, with Byrnes’ charge described to have run “conspicuously badly”.

Viking Hoard was found to be suffering a slow heart rate following the race and subsequent tests produced a shocking result. Against the international limit for HEPS of 10 nanograms/millilitre, the estimated detected level in Viking Hoard’s urine sample was 1000 nanograms/millilitre - 100 times the limit.

The Referrals Committee decided “the evidence showed that Viking Hoard was subject to a dangerous degree of sedation during the race, and the committee came to the conclusion the horse had been “nobbled” by an unidentified third party when left unaccompanied.

Cliodhna Guy, IHRB head of legal, licensing and compliances, submitted that “it was not alleged that Mr Byrnes was directly involved in either the administration of ACP or the betting patterns, he had taken risks in discharging his responsibilities under the Rules that resulted in an extremely serious outcome from the perspective of the IHRB”.

The committee concluded Byrnes was “seriously negligent in the supervision of Viking Hoard of the day of the Tramore race” and “significant actual damage flowed from the neglect of the trainer” – financial damage for punters and “reputational in the case of the racing industry”.

In handing out the suspension, the committee said Byrnes had “indulged in an unacceptable level of risk-taking in the supervision of his charge on a race day” and concluded a minimal sanction was not suitable as “the facts and consequences of this case passed any such threshold”.

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