FOUR winners from last year were disqualified this week by the Referrals Committee for failing post-race drug tests. Three of the trainers were fined €1,000 and the other ordered to pay €800 in costs.

The oldest of the four cases dates back to March 2021 when Gowran Park maiden hurdle winner Iberia tested positive for gabapentin, a human medication sometimes used as a painkiller in animals.

Trainer John Halley, a veterinary surgeon, said he did not treat the horse with the substance and does not use gabapentin professionally.

He supplied the Referrals Committee with a letter from another local veterinary surgeon who confirmed she had treated the Halley family dog with gabapentin at the time of the Gowran Park race.

The dog had access to the stableyard at all times and Halley suggested cross-contamination from the dog’s urine was responsible for the adverse analytical finding.

Subsequent tests carried out by the IHRB chief veterinary officer and LGC Laboratories appeared to support the trainer’s suggestion.

The Referrals Committee was satisifed that the medication was clearly “unknowingly administered” to the horse and they held it was unreasonable to have expected the trainer to have prevented it from happening.

The horse was disqualified from first place and the usual €1,000 fine was waived but Halley was ordered to pay €800 to cover the costs involved in the IHRB’s investigation.


Trainers John McConnell and Sean Cahill were both fined €1,000 over the presence of an anti-inflammatory in post-race samples taken from winners they saddled last year.

McConnell’s Itsalongroad tested positive after winning a Downpatrick handicap hurdle in June 2021 and Cahill’s Boreen Boy returned a positive test after landing a bumper at Listowel in September of last year.

Another 2021 Listowel Festival winner to test positive for a prohibited substance was the Pat O’Donnell-trained Johnny Cigar. The horse tested positive for ‘Gastrogard’, a commonly-used treatment for ulcers in horses.