MY first reaction to the news of Ronan McNally’s suspension was, I suspect, like many others. Wow, 12 years.

It’s a huge punishment. Even half that would have been severe in the general comparison of previous cases along the lines of bringing racing in to disrepute.

There is little doubt that, when looking at the facts, the improvement in the four horses and the way they were campaigned would leave even an outsider suspicious that these were clear cases of horses not running to their genuine level of ability and a betting element.

But it also seems that McNally just did not have the guile to be a mastermind engineering such deception.

The IHRB inquiry findings are clear: In 2020 three horses owned by Mr McNally showed extraordinary improvements in their form and handicap ratings over a very short period of time. Investigations revealed that the upturn in form and handicap ratings for the horses was dramatic and exceptional and occurred without any change in their training regime or other circumstances that would legitimately explain the dramatic and exceptional change in performance.

(i) Racing the horses when not fit or when the horses were ill;

(ii) Sending the horses to course for schooling /conditioning, and/or; (iii) Riding or arranging for them to be ridden improperly as against the Rules.

SP from Dreal Deal’s runs in the summer of 2020: 100/1, 250/1, 200/1, 100/1 to starting at 6/4 from 20s and going on to win five in a row, the others at odds-on show something was going on.

You can certainly agree with opinions put forward that serious horse welfare cases had not been dealt with in such a severe manner and also cite incidents from the past where the wool was pulled over bookmakers’ and punters’ eyes and horses not allowed to run on their merits initially. Indeed there is a famous case in which a ‘ringer’ was used, though the sanctions were strong for some involved. Now those ‘characters’ are celebrated in racing folklore.

No one will say that McNally was not playing his cards in a rather naive fashion. If you are serious at manipulating things in your favour, you do not court publicity.

But 12 years away from the sport is a hard hit, and must have exceeded what the majority of people expected. It is pretty much a lifetime away from training in these days. Does the punishment fit the crime?

Bring on the DRF feast

WHAT a feast of top class racing we have over the next two days.

In 48 hours we will find out if Galopin Des Champs is a worthy Gold Cup favourite. (Probably but still doubts). Is Honeysuckle still the top Irish hurdler (hopefully)? Is Facile Vega as good as his connections have declared (maybe not)? Who are our best two- and three-mile novices? (Appreciate It is best but Dysart wins this time, and for the longer distance James Du Berlais has too much for Mighty Potter.)