Racehorse trainer Ted Walsh has been cleared of any wrongdoing and will face no penalty over the Foxrock case, the Turf Club in Ireland has announced.
Walsh and jockey Adrian Heskin attracted the attention of the stewards when the horse finished third at Punchestown on December 7.
Adrian Heskin, Foxrock and trainer Ted Walsh pictured at Leopardstown
Officials on the day accepted explanations that the seven-year-old had finished slightly lame and lost both front shoes during the course of the race, although they banned Heskin for not reporting the issues in the first instance.
However, footage emerged that was not available on the day, prompting the inquiry to be reopened.
The new video evidence appeared to show Foxrock returning to the parade ring after the race with his front shoes visible.
Evidence was heard from various expert witnesses, including trainers Aidan O’Brien and Willie Mullins.
Leading vets, farriers, stable security officers and stewards also gave evidence at the lengthy referral hearing on April 18.
Having taken on board all the relevant facts, the Turf Club referrals committee could not “reach any firm conclusion as to the security with which the front shoes were attached to Foxrock from the post-race footage, save to (say) that they were not obviously or apparently loose”.
A Turf Club statement added that the committee “was satisfied on the evidence of Mr Walsh and on the footage of the race that Foxrock showed no signs of being lame as he passed the post at the end of the race, or at any time thereafter”.
Although Walsh was cleared, the referrals committee said it was “probable” that Foxrock could have finished second in the race and found Heskin in breach of failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures to achieve the “best possible placing”.
The jockey was, however, not found in breach of any other rule.
The statement continued: “Penalty will be considered at a separate and subsequent hearing, which will take into account the penalty imposed in relation to the original finding of the stewards.
“The committee took no further action against the trainer or horse, having regard to the dissatisfaction expressed by Mr Walsh in evidence in relation to Mr Heskin’s riding in the latter part of the race, which could no longer be justified by reference to the absence of two front shoes, or any other valid excuse.”
The referrals committee said Foxrock’s shoes were most likely to have become dislodged during the wash-down period.
If the shoes were deliberately removed, said the committee, it would have been impossible for whoever removed them to have not soiled their clothes from close contact with a wet animal.
Terry Smith, Turf Club senior veterinary officer, noted that there was nothing unusual about the clothing of Walsh nor his assistants.
The statement said Walsh would have had a “limited window of opportunity to determine on this course of action, obtain the necessary implements and remove the two shoes from the horse, all in the context of a stable yard on a race-day”.
It added: “Although it was clearly possible that the Turf Club case could be correct, the committee was not satisfied that the evidence in support of a guilty inference carried the degree of cogency necessary to find that it was more probable than the alternative innocent scenario.”