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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Russell saga will run some more and it is the Turf Club's own doing

Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan, who backed the initial finding in the Davy Russell case
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Just when you thought the heat might be going out of the situation, the Turf Club has conjured up another dramatic twist.

The regulator's chief executive Denis Egan spent a lot of time defending the referrals committee's decision to merely caution Davy Russell for striking Kings Dolly at Tramore.

Nonetheless, consensus was that the referrals committee in effect reneged on its responsibility in not issuing a sanction. 

It seems now that someone or some faction within the Turf Club has made a conscientious decision to recognise that Irish racing cannot exist in its own little vacuum.

Earlier in the day, the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued a statement condemning the committee's finding, arguably getting to the nub of the matter as perceived by those looking in on the sport.

"We are disappointed that the jockey was [charged] not for hitting the horse but for damaging the reputation of horseracing," the statement read.

It is unclear whether the ISPCA statement is what finally prompted the regulator to cave in to public opinion and review the finding.

The all-encompassing rule that has been invoked to review the decision states that it is within the powers of the Keeper of the Match Book or the Registrar of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee – the arm that officiates over jump racing – to do so if it deems any sanction or lack thereof unduly lenient.

Denis Egan is the Keeper of the Match Book. Maybe he had a change of heart, but, in view of his backing the initial outcome so strongly, it seems more likely that the impetus has come from elsewhere.

The current Registrar of the INHS is Josh Byrne, another long-standing member of the Turf Club who is well respected, so it seems reasonable to assume he was the one who identified the loophole or at least pressed the button for the about-turn.

At this stage, it's hard to say whether such a manoeuvre is a mature if rare concession from an officiating body that it has got a verdict wrong, or if it should be perceived as weakness on behalf of the authority and an undermining of Egan's credibility.

Either way, this sorry episode is set to run some more, and for that the Turf Club has only itself to blame.

Either way, this sorry episode is set to run some more, and for that the Turf Club has only itself to blame
E.W. Terms
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