Jockey Rob James suspended for four months after IHRB hearing into video
Rob James' amateur rider's licence and point-to-point training permit have been withdrawn for 12 months, with the last eight months of the sanction suspended, after an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board referrals panel found him guilty of bringing racing into disrepute over a video of him mounting a dead horse.
The suspensions will begin on Monday and it is understood James is not appealing against the verdict.
The footage, taken on August 27, 2016 but circulated this month on social media soon after a picture of Gordon Elliott sitting on the ill-fated Morgan surfaced, shows the talented point-to-point rider astride a deceased five-year-old mare on an unidentified gallop.
The IHRB has confirmed that the episode took place at Colin Bowe's yard in Wexford but that Bowe is not the subject of any further investigation.
"The investigation was satisfied that there was no rule breach on his behalf in that regard. He wasn't on the premises at the time and this particular investigation is now closed," said an IHRB spokesman on Wednesday night.
Full details of the case are due to be published on Thursday.
In the video, James moves to straddle the mare just as it appears her body was set to be moved, while three other people are shown in close vicinity.
Laughs can be heard after James fleetingly sits on the horse, soon patting her before dismounting.
The former champion novice point-to-point rider, who has partnered 235 winners between the flags, quickly issued an apology over the clip and the IHRB announced an investigation into the matter.
After a hearing that lasted over two hours at the IHRB's Curragh headquarters, the regulator announced the panel's decision on the same day as the hearing – just as they did when withdrawing Elliott's licence for a year last Friday, suspending the final six months of the leading trainer's punishment.
James was also punished under the same regulation as Elliott, rule 272(i), which relates to someone within racing's jurisdiction acting in a manner which is 'prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing'.
The hearing on Wednesday was chaired by Justice Leonie Reynolds, with Nick Wachman and Sean Barry also on the panel.
The 28-year-old rider enjoyed the biggest success of his career during this week last year when landing the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders' Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival aboard Milan Native, trained by Elliott and owned by Gigginstown House Stud.
The Wexford native, who saddled his first winner as a trainer in October with My Bad Lucy at Umma House, cannot send out runners as a handler until the middle of July, although point-to-pointing in Ireland has been suspended since January 13 when government Covid-19 protocols tightened. The grassroots industry will have to wait until at least April 5 to return.
James publicly expressed remorse over the unsavoury incident to the Irish Field earlier this month.
"I'd just like to apologise for my actions which were wholly inappropriate and disrespectful to a lovely five-year-old mare, who unfortunately suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while at exercise earlier that morning," he said.
"I sincerely apologise to the owners of the mare, the staff who cared for her, the horseracing industry and all followers of horseracing for my actions."
He added: "To try defending my stupidity at the time would add further insult and hurt to the many loyal people that have supported me during my career. I've caused embarrassment to my employers, my family and most importantly the sport I love.
"I'm heartbroken by the damage I've caused and will do my best to try and make amends to those hurt by my conduct."
James has enjoyed considerable success between the flags for leading handlers such as Bowe, Donnchadh and Sean Doyle, sharing the Southern Region championship with Jamie Codd in 2017 before landing a first Western Region title in 2019-20.
He has partnered star names such as Shishkin, Lostintranslation and Topofthegame in point-to-points and last visited the winner's enclosure under rules in November aboard Er Dancer at Fairyhouse.
The IHRB has also confirmed that a referrals hearing will take place after the conclusion of another investigation into who took the controversial photo of Elliott in 2019. No date has yet been set for that.
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