Fines and confusion for those breaking Covid sport rules *H&H Plus*

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  • A number of individuals working in the racing industry have fallen foul of breaching the Covid-19 restrictions on either side of the Irish Sea during November. H&H reviews the cases...

    IRISH champion trainer Willie Mullins and two staff have been hit with fines and bans for breaching Covid protocols, while a conditional jockey received a 21-day suspension after failing to weigh in after a win at Taunton.

    Mr Mullins’ groom Katie Murphy and stable representative Steve Jones broke racing restriction rules by travelling to Punchestown races on 14 November, having been at Aintree the previous week, and falsified health screening questionnaires.

    The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s referrals committee banned both from attending Irish racecourses for three months and fined them €200 (£180) and €400 (£360) respectively. Mr Mullins was fined €2,500 (£2,240) and banned for two weeks.

    Ms Murphy accepted responsibility and apologised for her actions.

    In her evidence, she stated she had been isolating after returning from Aintree, but had gone to work at Mr Mullins’ yard when other members of staff were not on site so she could look after the five horses assigned to her.

    She added that she was not asked to go racing at Punchestown, but had put her own name down on the list because one of the horses she looks after was running.

    Mr Jones also confirmed he was at Aintree and that he did not answer the health questionnaire truthfully, but he believed HGV drivers were exempt from self-restriction and isolation rules. He accepted this would have been clarified had he answered the questionnaire truthfully.

    He added that he was only required to go to Punchestown to collect horses and did not need to enter the racecourse, but went in for a coffee while he waited.

    Mr Mullins said there was no requirement for Mr Jones, who is employed on a casual basis, to enter the racecourse and explained the person who organises the staffing list must have forgotten Ms Murphy attended Aintree. He added she had gone out of her way to ensure she was not putting people at risk, and he saw no problem with her continuing to work at the yard in the way she had.

    He outlined Covid measures at his yard and apologised for the administration error involving Ms Murphy.

    British restrictions

    Restrictions on British courses have also caught out several individuals recently.

    The most high-profile recent case involved conditional jockey Alex Thorne, who lost his appeal on 26 November against a 21-day suspension after he failed to weigh in following his winning ride at Taunton on 12 November.

    The racecourse had changed its layout, owing to Covid rules, and Alex went back in the wrong door following his win, meaning he was disqualified and suspended. His appeal was dismissed by the disciplinary panel, but his deposit was returned.

    H&H 10 December 2020


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