PATTERNS in betting behaviour and patterns in race-riding were combined in evidence for the first time to produce a conviction in an Irish racing disciplinary hearing in the Ronan McNally case.

The Co Armagh trainer must wait until the new year to learn what sanctions he faces, having been found guilty of “training and running horses in a manner which is prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horseracing.” He was also found to acted in a manner which “caused serious damage to the interests of horseracing in Ireland”.

McNally says he is almost certain to appeal the charges and any punishments.

The case is unique in that it involves re-examining race rides from over two years ago and deeming them to be ‘non triers’ even though the stewards on the day took no action.

A source involved in the case told The Irish Field: “Jockeys can now be retrospectively found guilty of making insufficient effort to achieve the best possible position if the Referrals Committee believes a pattern can later be identified which suggests there was a deliberate attempt to deceive the handicapper and the betting public.”

In the McNally case, betting information provided by the Betfair betting exchange proved vital. Although the Referrals Committee has not yet published details of bets placed on the relevant races, it is believed that the data will show that individuals with links to McNally had an outstanding record in backing and laying horses from that yard, compared to their record in backing and laying horses from other stables.

With this in mind, the Referrals Committee took the unprecedented step of revisiting race-rides and, in some cases, deeming them to be ‘non triers’ on the balance of probabilities.

Amateur rider Eoin O’Brien and McNally himself were both deemed to have made insufficient effort to win on two McNally-trained horses in July 2020.

Point-to-point handler Ciaran Fennessy was found guilty of bringing racing into disrepute by passing “inside information” regarding the condition of horses to third parties.

And trainer David Dunne was deemed guilty of supplying misleading information and/or false information at a stewards’ enquiry, and to have conspired with McNally in concealing the real ownership details of one or two horses he trained to win.

Two professional jockeys, Mark Enright and Darragh O’Keeffe, were cleared of making insufficient effort on the McNally-trained Dreal Deal and the only finding against them was that they had failed to report incidents in running which may have affected their finishing position.

Solicitor Andrew Coonan, who represented Enright and O’Keeffe, said: “I am delighted by two clients had the opportunity to clear their good name and have been exonerated of any serious wrongdoing.

“But this is a concerning new development in that, in essence, there is now no statute of limitations in respect of examining race-rides. I am not saying this is a bad thing but it is something that all jockeys, owners and trainers should be aware of.”

McNally has enjoyed notable success with Dreal Deal and The Jam Man in recent seasons, with the first-named landing the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle in 2021 and both notching up sequences of wins from lowly starting marks.

It also transpired that McNally owned All Class and Full Noise, who were well-backed handicap winners for Co Meath trainer David Dunne in 2021.

These events, plus betting intelligence, prompted an investigation by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board [IHRB] into the apparent improvement in form of horses connected to McNally. The Referrals Committee, chaired by Justice Brian McGovern, heard the IHRB’s case over four days in October.

All parties have the right to appeal this week’s findings.