BHA ignored other possible sources of Faugheen leak says vet's defence
The BHA ignored a number of other possible sources of information revealing Faugheen would miss the 2016 Champion Hurdle, including the role of a bookmaker who also laid the horse, it was claimed in London on Tuesday.
Edward Fitzgerald, the QC defending Willie Mullins' vet Tim Brennan who is accused of corruption offences, said it seemed "a massive coincidence" another individual started laying Faugheen at around the same time as Michael Brennan, Tim Brennan's brother, two days before the horse was ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival.
That individual was named at a BHA disciplinary inquiry as greyhound bookmaker Ted Hegarty, described by Fitzgerald as "the elephant in the room". The inquiry heard Hegarty had been the subject of a BHA investigation but not charged.
Dismissing the BHA case against his client as "circumstantial" and "based on inference", Fitzgerald said: "It seems a massive coincidence that Hegarty and Michael Brennan placed lay bets at the same time. We say it is overwhelmingly likely that there was another source. In addition to laying Faugheen they both backed Arctic Fire."
He added there was no evidence connecting Tim Brennan and Hegarty, while also disclosing that the Irish Turf Club had informed the BHA it was confident it knew who was involved – another individual whose name cannot be disclosed.
Tim Brennan, from Gowran, is charged with conspiring with his brother Michael Brennan to commit a corrupt or fraudulent practice by passing on inside information about an injury to Faugheen before it became public, which he obtained as the horse's vet, which might be used to gain an unfair advantage in the betting market and/or enabling or assisting his brother to cheat at gambling. He denies the charges.
Michael Brennan, a meat wholesaler based in Naas where he also has a livery yard, wagered a little more than €2,000 after depositing €2,400 in his Betfair account, which would have netted him a potential profit of €3,342, in a series of lay bets placed 48 hours before the horse was ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival.
He has refused to cooperate with the investigations as a result of which he has been excluded from the sport since October 2016.
The bets were struck on Monday, February 15 – the day Faugheen, the 1-3 favourite for the Champion Hurdle, was due to be ridden out for the first time since the Irish Champion Hurdle in January after which he had been lame.
The BHA claims a nine-minute phone call Tim Brennan made to Mullins, which they allege was about Faugheen, and a three-second call from the vet to his brother shortly before he placed his first bet, which it was suggested was returned, were key to the case.
Fitzgerald told the panel: "What was known on the Monday is simply not clear. It's possible it's a mystery, but one thing is sure, it is not proven that confidential information that Faugheen was not going to run was available on February 15, that Tim Brennan knew that, that he discussed the horse with Willie Mullins in the nine-minute phone call or that he passed information to his brother with conspiracy in mind."
Earlier Tim Brennan said he would never have discussed Faugheen, nor any other horse he was treating, with his brother and to do so would be to breach the trust of his clients, with Mullins contributing 40 per cent of his business since he started working for him ten years ago.
He said: "It is the cornerstone of a vet or doctor's career that you make an oath in which you swear to keep confidentiality with clients and patients.
"It's part of your integrity, it's vitally important. I would never do that, sacrifice my whole career for something like that."
The inquiry heard Brennan had many connections with Mullins, having been brought up in the same area and his cousin being married to Tom Mullins, brother of Willie.
He said he did not find out his brother had laid Faugheen until he received a letter from the BHA about the case.
"He was pretty embarrassed to tell me he had laid the horse," he said. "He feels a bit guilty he'd got me into trouble. Whatever source he had, it didn't come from me."
Brennan said his brother would have the same contacts as he would to the Mullins yard through familial and community ties. Michael Brennan's best friend was a Mullins owner, a cousin was racing manager to another owner, two people who worked at his livery yard worked at the Mullins stable at the time of the investigation and they also shared the same farriers.
He also told the hearing that at the same time his mother, who died in April 2016, had been diagnosed with cancer and his daughter Annie, who was suffering from leukaemia, was taken to hospital on February 15 following seizures to undergo an MRI scan to determine if it had spread to her brain. She is now in remission.
Brennan said he asked his brother several times to provide the BHA with his phone records but he refused.
In cross-examination Philip Evans, QC, for the BHA, said: "Your brother, who you are normally close to, realises the potential effect he had had on you, yet all he had to do was produce one page of his telephone records which would have proved he didn't speak to you."
He added: "You would think he [Tim Brennan] would move heaven and earth to obtain those records."
The panel said it expected to deliver a verdict within three to four days.
If you are interested in this, you might also like: