Four-year ban for trainer over neglect and welfare rule breaches

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  • Irish trainer Stephen Mahon has been banned from training racehorses for four years by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) following an unannounced inspection at his Kilcolgan stable in County Galway on 13 April, plus a further inspection on 15 April.

    The trainer was found to have breached IHRB rules relating to animal welfare, neglect and proper supervision, as well as failing to register members of staff. As a result his conduct was ruled to be prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing.

    Over the course of two days (29 April and 3 May), an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Referrals Committee panel, chaired by Justice Tony Hunt, heard over 16 hours of evidence from 13 witnesses.

    The panel were informed that one horse, referred to as Animal A, had to be put down the day after the initial inspection due to a “catastrophically injured” fetlock joint. The committee found there had been insufficient effort to obtain appropriate veterinary treatment for this horse given the seriousness of its injury, meaning the level of supervision given to Animal A “fell well below that required of a licensed trainer”.

    The incident was one of a number of failings relating to 11 horses in all, including seven that were found to be inadequately cared for in a field, one of which was described as emaciated, identified in the report.

    In response to the allegations, Mr Mahon did not dispute that there were failings by him, and expressed clear remorse for these shortcomings, but argued that these failings did not reach the point of neglect.

    The panel came to the conclusion that there were “multiple and widespread failures to secure the welfare of animals in [Mr Mahon’s] charge which go to the heart of his fitness to continue to hold a training licence.”

    The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Referrals Committee panel suspended his licence until 14 April, 2025 and ordered Mr Mahon to pay €5,000 in legal costs. The ban does not prevent him from working in the racing industry in another capacity during this period.

    In a previously unprecedented move, the IHRB suspended the trainer’s licence 15 days prior to the hearing taking place.

    Mr Mahon’s intent to appeal against the sanction – thought to be the longest ban ever imposed on a trainer in Ireland – was confirmed by his legal representation, Patrick Ward Solicitors, on Saturday 5 June.

    Continues below…

    It is the second occasion that Mahon has been punished by the IHRB over unsatisfactory practices with animals in his care having had his licence suspended for four months and fined €1,000 over a case involving eight-year-old mare Pike Bridge in 2008. He was suspended for four months in 2008 for bringing racing into disrepute in relation to a Circuit Civil Court case the year before when Mahon was ordered to pay €34,000 in damages to the owner of the mare, Pike Bridge.

    The court ruled the trainer had treated the thoroughbred so badly it had to be humanely put down to stop unnecessary suffering.

    An IHRB referrals panel that subsequently suspended Mahon concluded that while there was no evidence of cruelty to Pike Bridge, there had been “complete disregard of the procedures for the ordinary running of a licensed stable.”

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