Walsh welcomes major move to bolster non-triers' rule
Egan describes new legislation as the best in the world
Ruby Walsh has backed the Turf Club’s efforts to reinforce measures to tackle non-triers, calling integrity a "huge issue" and for the sport's cheats to be caught.
The champion jockey was speaking in the wake of the publication of the restructured rule 212, which includes a new provision that aims to prevent the regulator being blindsided when new information is brought to bear on appeal.
It follows the overturning of a number of high-profile non-trier convictions in the past two years, and the disclosure amendment is also designed to address issues pertaining to similarly contentious appeals in relation to other rule infringements.
Following a review in the wake of adverse publicity generated by the controversial Noble Emperor case involving Tony Martin and Barry Geraghty last spring, rule 212 has now been comprehensively rewritten.
“The jockeys' association was consulted, and integrity is a huge issue,” Walsh said yesterday. “Obviously there is a fine line between flogging a tired horse and being seen to make a reasonable effort, but anything that the Turf Club can do in a proactive manner on a rule like this has to be good for racing. You have to try and catch the cheats.
“I’ve never been done under rule 212 and don’t ever plan to be, so I probably never had an issue with it, but, if the Turf Club feels the need to upgrade it in order to stop people cheating, so be it.
"As long as they are doing it for racing and investors in the game, it is a good thing - it shouldn’t just be for perception because of a backlash from punters.“
Rule 212 will now comprise four distinct categories, with further broader amendments seemingly phrased in such a way as to give stewards and appeals panels more freedom to implement rules as they see fit.
As a result, appeals panels will not be confined to dealing solely with the conviction before them, a stumbling block that led to the high court recently overturning the sanctions imposed by the Turf Club after Martin’s Pyromaniac was deemed by the regulator to have not run on its merits at Killarney in July.
The four new sub-sections to the rule are framed to deal with (i) blatant non-triers, (ii) less clear-cut cases whereby a genuine attempt to obtain the best possible placing is not evident, (iii) instances in which a horse has run in a condition that would have precluded it from performing to its optimum level and (iv) negligent rides in which a jockey makes a professional error.
Perhaps crucially, the word ‘seen’ appears four times in the new ruling, reinforcing the sense that riders are required to be seen to make sufficient effort. The inclusion of the subjective term is expected to give the regulator more leeway and may prove an impediment of sorts to potential legal challenges.
From January 20, when the new rule comes in to play, the maximum fine for a trainer found guilty of an infringement increases from €6,000 to €10,000, with horses liable to be banned from racing for up to 90 days as opposed to 60.
Martin’s €3,000 fine - subsequently quashed on appeal – in relation to the Noble Emperor affair at Limerick is the largest fine to be issued recently.
“These are the most comprehensive running and riding rules anywhere in the world,” Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan said of the revised rule.
“I am on an international harmonisation of rules committee and I showed them the rule draft in Hong Kong in December, and no country has that amount of detail in a running and riding rule.
“We have been using the same rule, effectively, for major and minor offences. This is more specific and it will close off a lot of the loopholes, and evidence on both sides will be shared.
“Now, what it will all come down to is the application of it, and I would be very confident that the new rule will be applied to cover what has been happening heretofore and will result in a huge improvement in this whole area from an integrity point of view.”
Subject to providing notice, the Turf Club will also now be able to change the rule under which an individual has been charged. Potentially, though, the disclosure stipulation is one of the most significant amendments.
In recent times, appellants have surprised panels with new evidence - typically of the veterinary variety - that has fundamentally altered a case. However, now they will have to furnish the Turf Club with any new evidence at least 72 hours in advance of a hearing.
“Any new evidence needs to be proffered at the earliest opportunity so that we have an opportunity to validate it, and the same will apply to the Turf Club,” Egan explained.
Champion jockey Walsh agrees that such a stipulation make sense.
“I don’t think you can walk into a courtroom and drop a bombshell on the opposition by introducing new evidence without telling them you are going to do it, so I’d imagine that is only following the lines of any court procedure,” he suggested.