THE Department of Agriculture and Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board have declined to comment on whether they have made any further inspections of equine premise following the discovery of unauthorised medicines at a stud farm in Monasterevin, Co Kildare, on Tuesday, November 9th.
The ‘raid’ has dominated talk in Irish racing circles for the past fortnight, with more questions raised than answers given.
Led by Department officials, with the assistance of An Garda Síochána and IHRB representatives, the Monasterevin inspection centred on a clinic held by equine therapist John Warwick. Well-known in racing and sport horse circles, Warwick specialises in treating tendon injuries.
The inspectors discovered and seized “unauthorised medicines” in his possession at the Co Kildare premises. Although the products have not been named, Warwick admits he should not have had them in Ireland and says they were bound for Kuwait and not for any of his Irish clients.
The story took several twists last weekend. Firstly trainers Ted Walsh and Liam Burke were identified as having been on the premises at the time of the inspection, both bringing horses with leg injuries for treatment.
Walsh had an unnamed horse with a tendon injury while Burke was dropping off a horse for a neighbour while on his way to Fairyhouse with a runner. Though they had not unloaded their horses, the trainers were forced to wait at the scene until the IHRB’s chief veterinary officer Lynn Hillyer arrived and took samples from all horses on the premises.
Both the Sunday Independent and Sunday Times published further information on the case. The Independent revealed that the Monasterevin premises, Ballintogher Stud, is owned by Aidan O’Brien’s travelling head lad T.J. Comerford, and that the premises had been staked out last summer by a private investigator.
Comerford told the Sunday Independent that he only acquired the property two years ago and allowed Warwick to continue holding his clinics at the yard every two weeks.
There is speculation in racing circles that the private investigator was hired by a British trainer, or group of trainers, who suspect that performance-enhancing drugs are being used in Irish racing. The surveillance operation found that over 60 horseboxes had visited Warwick’s fortnightly clinics in Monasterevin. A number of the horseboxes were owned by licensed trainers.
Asked if any charges were being brought as a result of the seizure, or if further inspections have taken place this week, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture said: “As this is an ongoing investigation, the Department will not be commenting further at this point.”
The IHRB was also asked if there had been any further developments and its spokesman said: “We firmly believe that we have a gold standard equine anti-doping strategy in place and that has recently been reiterated by the Joint Oireachtas Committee in their detailed report which was released earlier this month.
“Part of this strategy, however, is not to comment on any ongoing investigations which is extremely important for a whole host of reasons. This year we have already carried out in the region of 140 inspections on licenced and unlicensed premises and we have done so with and without the Department being present.
“Prior to obtaining Authorised Officer status we worked very closely with the Department and all relevant authorities, be that the Gardaí or other racing jurisdictions and since obtaining Authorised Officer status early this year that very much continues to be the case.
“We have a strong collaboration with the Department and have worked very closely with them on the case which you refer to but we will be unable to make any further comment on that at this time. We do once again reiterate if anyone does have any information that they would like to share with us via the Confidential Hotline we will assess it all and act on it.”