IT’S often said that for racing folk, the build up to Cheltenham is like that of Christmas to a child.
Bearing that in mind, it might be no surprise to see a bit of theatrical content and a few pantomime villains being pulled out for entertainment in the mainstream newspapers as horseracing hits the headlines.
It was back at the end of 2020 when Jim Bolger claimed that drugs were the number one problem in Irish racing, later maintaining that “there will be a Lance Armstrong figure within Irish racing.”
At the time, you got the impression that this must have been something he was hearing regularly reported by his staff. And Bolger being a man of such standing, it needed taking seriously.
Since then, we have had a couple of four-page Sunday paper features, now over more than a year but nothing really to add to the initial claims.
Last Sunday we got a slice of more theatre with individuals involved in the revelations revealed in Paul Kimmage’s four-page article. Trainer X, John Doe, Steve Mahon as the whistleblower.
Mahon was presented as one who had got into trouble but who had a troubled past himself. Here he was, trying to do good now? Hardly the Tommy Shelby bad guy, but we can still like him?
Mahon has welfare convictions and lost his training licence last April. This was after he had passed on information to the IHRB’s Lynn Hillyer of illegal drugs being administered, and it was suggested the timing was questionable.
Mahon still has his defenders, even if there are enough previous breaches of animal welfare for him not to be a most appealing witness to a jury. But any evidence of wrongdoing should be outed.
The headline on Sunday was “Smoke and Fire”. So far there has been a lot of confusing smoke and no fire from the initial comments from Jim Bolger, even though events in the US, and the use of drugs not easily detectable, must be a definite concern. The John Warwick incident posed some questions but nothing to date to back them up.
On Sky Sports Racing’s morning show last May, Bolger brought up the issue that Mahon’s licence was taken away. “It all seemed very petty when we know that this other thing is going on. It’s not as important as what the big problem is.”
Many trainers, with large and small strings were adamant last summer that they never used anything nor saw anything being used. It would have been in the interest of many to call it out, say what you see, to level that playing field.
There are communications contained in the most recent four-page exposé that need clarifying but Mahon was portrayed in a very sympathetic light, and it’s conceivable that he might have an axe to grind with authorites.
The tumbleweed and ominous music have been blowing though for some time now and nothing really new unearthed. It’s probably time to put it out there.