Jockey Eddie O’Connell has been banned from riding for a period of four years. This ban was imposed after O’Connell was found guilty of racing corruption charges after a lengthy Turf Club investigation into online betting on a race at Downpatrick in 2011.
In September 2011, the James Lambe trained Yachvili was pulled up by O’Connell in a steeplechase after which Betfair, an internet exchange firm, alerted the Turf Club. It was alleged by the internet exchange firm that two UK based individuals placed a “lay” bet of £10,000 sterling on Yachvili not to finish in the first three and the company paid out on the successful bet but said their records revealed the amount gambled was much greater than the individuals had ever gambled before.
The Turf Club and the Attorney General opposed an appeal by O'Connell and Lambe requesting the court to declare that any decision the Turf Club makes arising out of its investigation was null and void. Justice Brian McGovern said the application raised interesting and important issues as the constitution and status of the Turf Club and had potentially far reaching consequences. Justice McGovern said the application also brought into focus the extent which it is permissible for the courts to intervene in sporting matters.
Lambe, trainer of Yachvili who was a 12-1 shot, was cleared while Eddie O'Connell was found guilty by the Referrals Committee of the Turf Club. Yachvili was ridden by O'Connell, of Harbour View, Monasterevin, Co Kildare, and was trained by Lambe, Brookland Stables, Red Lion Road, Kilmore, Co Armagh.
O’Connell and Lambe failed in a High Court legal challenge against the Turf Club last month and their entitlement to enforce the rules of racing. Lambe was cleared of all charged by the Turf Club but the regulatory body imposed the most severe punishment handed out to a jockey in Ireland in recent times. The 24-year-old O’Connell has a week to appeal against the suspension and a fine of €10,000 towards Turf Club costs into the investigation. O’Connell was found guilty of breaching two rules of racing relating to taking all reasonable measures to insure a horse attain its best possible position in a race and the requirement of avoiding corrupt or fraudulent practices.
O’Connell's solicitor, Andrew Coonan, said obviously Eddie is very disappointed at the outcome and considering his options including his entitlement to appeal. He added it has been a difficult time for him personally. Coonan added an appeal against the suspension is under consideration and remarked we have seven days to lodge an appeal. He also remarked we have discussed the issue obviously and we will discuss it more during this week and over the weekend but an appeal is being very much considered.
The first racing experience of Eddie O’Connell came with Martin Brassil and Dessie Hughes as a teenager and he later was associated with the northern pony racing circuit and eventually linked up with Tyrone-based trainer Jim Lambe. O’Connell, riding as an amateur, took his first mount on the racecourse on the Ray McGlinchey-trained Mcswynes Bay in a bumper at Ballinrobe on May 29th 2007 and gained his first win on the Flat, riding the Shark Hanlon-trained Darenjan in July 2009. The jockey decided to turn professional in the early stages of the 2009/10 season.
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