The action follows an investigation conducted by the Turf Club into alleged betting irregularities arising from the running of a horse called Yachvili in the Kerry Foods European Breeders Funds Beginners Chase at Downpatrick on September 21, 2011.
On that occasion, Yachvili was ridden by Mr O’Connell, of Harbour View, Monasterevin, Co Kildare, and trained by Mr Lambe, of Brookland Stables, Red Lion Rd, Kilmore, Co Armagh. Both deny any allegations of wrongdoing.
Arising out of the investigation, they have brought a High Court action aimed at rendering any decision the Turf Club makes in respect of the allegations null and void.
It is regarded as an important test case concerning how the rules and regulations of horse racing are enforced in Ireland.
The applicants are seeking declarations including that the Irish Turf Club’s rules of racing were made without jurisdiction and not in accordance with the law.
They further seek declarations that sections of the Irish Horse Racing Industry Act 1994, the legislation which made the Turf Club the official statutory body response for flat racing, are unconstitutional.
The investigation commenced after the online betting exchange Betfair made a complaint to the Turf Club. Betfair said two UK-based individuals had placed a lay bet of £10,000 on Yachvili not to finish in the top three.
The bet was successful and Betfair paid out. Betfair claimed that records revealed the amount gambled was much greater than the individuals in question had ever gambled before.
Mr O’Connell, Mr Lambe, and others including horse owner Robert Martin, were investigated by the Turf Club to determine if the rules of racing were breached in that race.
Mr O’Connell and Mr Lambe, represented by Feichin McDonagh, claim the Turf Club has given itself, without justification, far-reaching powers for regulation of the horse-racing industry.
Mr McDonagh said the Turf Club’s jurisdiction to impose sanctions could not be found in the legislation which made it the official statutory body responsible for the regulation of flat racing in Ireland.
The court heard the allegations against the pair are significant. Any decision taken by the Turf Club could end their careers as well as affect their “good names”. Under the rules of racing, the Turf Club can impose sanctions such as a fine, suspension, or a lifetime ban from racing.
Yesterday, the court heard that a Turf Club investigation had concluded and it had made a decision. However, that decision has not been made public.
The Turf Club denies the claims. It also argues both men are bound by the rules of racing and must accept any sanction imposed on them should they be found to have breached the rules. The rules which the two men seek to challenge, the Turf Club adds, are an inherent and integral part of the proper regulation of horse racing in Ireland.
The Attorney General, who is a notice party to the action, has also opposed Mr Lambe and Mr O’Connell’s action.
The case continues.