Ronan McNally disqualified from Irish racing for twelve years.
After finding trainer Ronan McNally guilty of multiple integrity violations in December, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s referrals committee published severe sanctions, including a 12-year ban from Irish racing, a €50,000 fine, and an order to return over €13,000 in prize money.
McNally and fellow trainer David Dunne were also found guilty of conspiring to conceal McNally’s ownership of Full Noise and All Class. Dunne was also given a two-year license suspension for bringing racing into disrepute, with the final 18 months suspended for two years. He has been fined €5,000 and ordered to return the prize money that was determined to have been won illegally. In Dunne’s case, that includes 36 races in which All Class, Full Noise, and Petrol Head competed on his behalf while McNally concealed his ownership of the horses.
Dreal Deal has been disqualified from two of his victories for McNally in the autumn of 2020 at Limerick and Navan in accordance with rule 212, which deals with improvement in form. Under rule 275, which deals with horses that have been the subject of fraudulent practice, The Jam Man has been disqualified from a runner-up position at Limerick. This brings McNally’s prize money down to €13,400. Dunne must forfeit nearly €27,000 in prize money in the 36 relevant races for the other three, which include three wins for All Class and one for Full Noise in 2021.
In comparison to Stephen Mahon’s four-year suspension for bringing racing into disrepute due to welfare violations, these suspensions are thought to be the longest ever handed out to Irish license holders.
“The committee regards the findings against Mr McNally as very serious,” the report stated. “His offences strike at the integrity and the objective of having a level playing field for all who send horses out to race. They also involved a deception of the public, especially the betting public.”
McNally was found to have caused “serious damage to the interests of horse racing in Ireland” by the panel after a hearing in October. Ten of the 11 broad charges brought against him were upheld, including using the racecourse as a training ground by running horses that were not sufficiently schooled to obtain handicap marks that were not reflective of their abilities. The sanctions hearing took place on January 13 after the findings were released in December.
McNally was found to have conspired with Ciaran Fennessy, a point-to-point handler based in County Cork, by passing on inside information for betting purposes. He was found to have achieved “a pattern of improvement in form of horses at a level previously unfamiliar to experienced and long-serving handicapping officials.”
Fennessy’s license has been suspended for three years, with the final two years being suspended for a period of five years, in accordance with the rules that cover bringing racing into disrepute. After Fennessy was found to be in violation of three charges, including engaging in conduct prejudicial to the integrity and good reputation of the sport, the referrals panel, which was presided over by Mr. Justice Brian McGovern and noted that Fennessy “left school at a young age and is not qualified to do any work other than something involving horses,” fined him €5,000. Fennessy was found to be in violation of three charges.
Fennessy and McNally cannot work for any trainer or enter any premises licensed by the IHRB, such as racecourses, as a result of their disqualification. It is a significant punishment for Fennessy, who trades horses, and McNally’s career as a trainer will almost certainly come to an end as a result.
During the investigation, Dreal Deal’s improvement in form was closely examined, and McNally was found to have given Fennessy “information about the condition and wellbeing of Dreal Deal to allow others to profit from betting on the horse with a betting organization.”
According to the report that was published on Tuesday, Ciaran lives at the same address as his brother Aaron and their father, Liam, and McNally purchased both Dreal Deal and The Jam Man from Pat Fennessy. It says that when the IHRB asked for evidence of Aaron and Liam’s Betfair accounts, which were found to have a “definite bias toward” McNally’s horses, Ian Devlin of Paddy Power Betfair provided it.
“He produced spreadsheets showing a consolidated betting history for their accounts,” the report says of Devlin’s contribution. “The evidence established that in relation to Dreal Deal, Liam Fennessy and Aaron Fennessy backed the horse not to be placed in Clonmel on March 4, 2020 and March 24, 2020. They also backed Dreal Deal to win on the day it won at Navan on 19 September, 2020.
“The evidence showed a definite bias towards horses trained by Mr McNally. The board alleges that they had received inside information from either Mr Ciaran Fennessy or Mr McNally. The evidence of their betting on Dreal Deal shows that they had knowledge of the expectations for the horse on the day. Any other explanation is simply not credible. The evidence established that on a number of occasions Mr McNally discussed the training and performance of Dreal Deal with Mr Ciaran Fennessy, although there was no good reason to do so since Mr Fennessy was not the owner.”
The referrals panel determined that he orchestrated a “manipulation of their official handicap ratings” and purposefully concealed his ownership of horses in Dunne’s training yard. All Class and Full Noise were notable wagers placed under Dunne’s name; however, McNally was discovered to be the owner of both, and they have since continued to operate under his name.
During a stewards’ inquiry at Navan in March 2021, Dunne was found guilty in retrospect of providing false or misleading information to an official. He will be able to work in racing while he is suspended, but this is yet another major mark on his record.
After receiving a fine of €1,500 for leaving Vodka Society overnight at the 2018 Galway races in a stable that was described in an IHRB report as being in “deplorable condition,” he has already gained some notoriety.
After appealing against a €2,000 fine that was triggered when Drum Samhraidh tested positive for the anabolic steroid Boldenone following a bumper victory in Ballinrobe, he also lost his license for four months in 2020.
In connection with his ride on Dreal Deal in July 2020 at Navan, amateur jockey Eoin O’Brien was suspended for 21 days. It was determined that he intentionally prevented the horse from running on its merits by not allowing him to exit the stalls in a timely manner and for not reporting an issue that could have affected the horse’s performance to the stewards. O’Brien has been suspended retrospectively after the day’s stewards at Navan did not raise any concerns.
Darragh O’Keeffe, a horseman who won the Grade 1 race, and Mark Enright, a jockey who won the Galway Plate, were both given warnings after they were found to have broken one of four charges related to rides on Dreal Deal. They were found to have failed to report the horses’ slow starts to the stewards, including O’Keeffe’s charge for his run at Gowran Park in June 2020 and Enright’s charge for his run at the Curragh a month later.
Before their respective suspensions begin on March 1, those who have been sanctioned have time to appeal.
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