OWNER and point-to-point handler Tony Costello has welcomed news that the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board is making a priority of improving transparency around Referrals Committee hearings.

Irish racing has suffered embarrassment in recent months caused by delays in publishing details of positive post-race tests for point-to-point winners Flemensface and Asian Master.

Both horses won point-to-point maidens in 2023 and tested positive for prohibited substances but details of the Flemensface case were not published until October 2023 and the Asian Master hearing result was not published until last week.

During the seven-month period between his race and disqualification, Flemensface – originally trained by Alan Ahern - was sold at public auction and was later returned when news of the failed test was published.

Tony Costello’s Asian Master went on to win two hurdle races this winter and the 11-month delay in publishing details of his point-to-point disqualification prompted a full-page article in last weekend’s Sunday Independent.

Costello, who was found by the Referrals Committee to have taken all reasonable precautions to avoid breaching the rules and was not fined over the matter, told The Irish Field he has suffered significant reputational damage by the delay in publishing details of the case.

He says he does not understand why the IHRB effectively disqualified the horse immediately after the hearing in December – and advised various racing databases to update their records – but did not make any statement at the time, which gave the impression that the case was being ‘hushed up’.


In response to questions from The Irish Fieldabout the case, a spokesperson for the IHRB said yesterday: “In certain cases, a Referrals or Appeals panel chooses to issue its findings by way of a written decision, in order to set out clearly the reasons for their decision. When this occurs, this formal document is drafted by the Committee and is issued to both sides (IHRB and the respondent) at the same time. The IHRB awaits that document before the notice of the hearing is published as received.

“In this case, the decision of the Referrals Committee to disqualify Asian Master was implemented on the day of the hearing: the official published result of the race was amended immediately and the horse’s form was updated at the same time and was publicly available from that day.

“Subsequently, the written decision of the Referrals Committee was published within 24 hours of being received by the IHRB. There was no delay in publication on the part of the IHRB.”

The spokesperson went on to say that there is a proposal being considered to ensure a similar scenario does not happen again.

“As part of the new IHRB Statement of Strategy 2024-2027, which we published in December 2023, the IHRB has committed to greater transparency in the future, including opening Referrals and Appeals hearings to the media.

“In recognition of the desire for more timely provision of information, we are also reviewing our publication policy to allow for early publication of certain regulatory information in advance of hearings taking place and have commenced engagement with stakeholders on these initiatives, which we will be implementing as a matter of priority.”