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BHA to appeal against disciplinary panel’s decision in Hobbs case

The BHA has made the unprecedented move of lodging an appeal against a decision of the disciplinary panel, in a case involving trainer Philip Hobbs.

Concerning an inquiry held on August 10, the BHA believes “the panel’s interpretation of the rules in the original hearing was not correct” when it looked into whether Hobbs was in breach of the rules of racing on the grounds that prohibited substance cetirizine, an antihistamine for allergies, was found in a urine sample taken from Keep Moving following his third-placed finish at Ludlow on January 25 earlier this year.

The trainer was found to be in breach of rule (G)2.1, concerning the presence of a prohibited substance in a horse’s sample and the five-year-old was disqualified.

However, no penalty was imposed as the panel found Hobbs to be within the conditions set out in rule (G)11.4 in that ‘the prohibited substance was not administered intentionally by [him] or by any other person . . . and the [trainer] had taken all reasonable precautions to avoid violating rule 2.1’.

Explaining the decision to appeal, the BHA’s chief regulatory officer Jamie Stier said: “The appeal of the BHA is intended to seek clarification in relation to the interpretation of rule (G)11.4 by the disciplinary panel.

“We are appealing against this decision on the basis of the principle alone, not the fact of the absence of the penalty against the respondent. Should the appeal be successful the BHA would be asking for only a nominal penalty to be imposed.

“We have made it clear that an appeal would only be lodged by the BHA in exceptional circumstances and when a decision of the panel may impact on the BHA’s ability to regulate the sport effectively.”

He added: “While we cannot go into detail regarding the specifics of this case ahead of the appeal hearing, we are of the view that the panel’s interpretation of the rules in the original hearing was not correct and therefore an appeal was necessary to establish an agreed interpretation.

“This is the first time that the BHA has lodged an appeal against the decision of a disciplinary panel since the ability for the BHA to appeal was introduced in 2014.”

In response, the NTF issued a statement, which read: “The NTF is disappointed that the BHA chose to appeal the finding of the panel as we consider that it made a correct interpretation of a rule that has concerned us for some time; the panel’s finding was a welcome change of approach.

“We do not believe the panel’s decision obstructs the BHA from regulating the sport. In fact, its effect will be to encourage good management practice in trainers’ yards.”

The appeal will be heard on Monday and the BHA has agreed to indemnify all reasonable costs incurred in the event that the respondent is successful.