Faugheen’s vet Tim Brennan has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority after charges were brought against him relating to bets allegedly placed by his brother.
The case revolved around bets allegedly placed by Michael Brennan before Faugheen being ruled out of the 2016 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in February that year. At the time he was about 1-3 with the traditional bookmakers to win back-to-back renewals and Michael Brennan stood to profit by €3,342 after offering odds up to almost Evens.
The BHA’s assertion was that Tim Brennan was bound by the Rules of Racing, and that he had conspired with his brother to commit a corrupt or fraudulent practice in relation to racing by passing on information relating to the prospects of Faugheen which was not publicly available and had obtained information in his capacity as a veterinary surgeon to Faugheen.
But Brennan's legal team said the case against their client was “complete fantasy”. His barrister, Stephen Lanigan O’Keeffe, said: “This case simply has no credibility.”
After considering the all evidence before it, the disciplinary panel concluded that it “has not been proved to the appropriate standard that Timothy Brennan was the source of any confidential information to his brother”.
The longer the two-day case went on, the more apparent it became clear that the BHA’s case against the vet was circumstantial and that any numbers of sources might have known Faugheen was on the easy list and struggling to make it back to Cheltenham the following month.
Brennan strongly protested his innocence from the outset and had there been betting on the outcome it is unlikely anyone would have got rich backing him to be exonerated. Many months of investigation, interviews and studies of of betting records, phone records and veterinary records failed to yield any firm evidence against him.
Having ruled that in their view Tim Brennan “at the material time in all the circumstances placed before the panel” was not subject to the Rules of Racing, as a self-employed veterinary surgeon, the panel added: “So far as is known, this issue has not been canvassed before, and on balance the panel preferred the submissions made on behalf of Timothy Brennan to those made on behalf of the BHA.
“The panel concluded that there were, on the evidence, a number of other realistic possibilities for the source of any such information.
“The panel had the advantage of seeing and hearing Timothy Brennan give evidence and be cross-examined for the best part of half a day and found him to be a credible witness who did not seek to avoid any of the matters put to him.
“Notwithstanding their findings the panel consider that the BHA on the information available at the time were acting reasonably in instigating an enquiry in respect of Timothy Brennan.”
A statement released through Brennan's solicitor, Smithwick, read: "Tim Brennan and his wife Olivia wish to express their gratitude to the disciplinary panel for its decision in absolving Tim of all wrongdoing and allowing him the opportunity to clear his name.
"From the outset, Tim fully co-operated with the BHA inquiry, made himself available for interview without legal representation and provided his telephone records without having reviewed them in advance. He, at all times, maintained his innocence, adhering to professional integrity and confidentiality.
"This inquiry has been extremely stressful for the Brennan family but Tim has, from the outset, been resolute in his determination to clear his name. For this reason he sought to give full and frank evidence, being subjected to a comprehensive and strident cross-examination by Queen's Counsel on behalf of the BHA over many hours.
"It is, indeed, reassuring that the panel, not only held Tim Brennan was not subject professionally to the jurisdiction of the BHA but it went further to comment upon Tim’s truthfulness and integrity. It found that he was neither responsible for divulging confidential information nor involved in any wrongdoing."
It is unclear how much the BHA spent on the case but the sport’s regulators were swift to defend themselves.
A statement issued by them said: “The BHA has a duty to protect the integrity of our sport and the interests of the betting public. That means we will investigate and act where we become aware of suspicious betting activity. Those who lose money in such circumstances would expect nothing less, and we owe it to them to pursue these cases.
“We note the independent Disciplinary Panel’s finding that the case against Timothy Brennan was not proved to an appropriate standard. We note too their finding that the BHA was acting reasonably in instigating this enquiry.
“Had we had co-operation from the key witness in the case, Timothy Brennan’s brother, this matter might have been resolved much sooner. Notwithstanding, it was important to set the evidence in front of an independent Panel. We await the independent Panel’s full written findings before we can comment further on the detail of this case, including the issue of jurisdiction which the Panel examined.”
The statement went on to add: “Around 45 per cent of racing’s income comes from betting. This crucial revenue stream, which in turn generates prize money for participants, should not be taken for granted as the government’s recent decision on gambling reform has shown.
“In the light of that, it is vital that we continue to investigate if we are to maintain the betting public’s confidence that racing is fair and clean."
Commenting at the conclusion of the case, the BHA’s Head of Regulation Tim Naylor added: “Mr Brennan was subject to a fair hearing in front of an independent Disciplinary Panel. There was evidence which required examination, as the Panel has recognised, and we note their finding that the BHA acted reasonably.
"We will continue to charge potential breaches of the Rules of Racing in order to protect the integrity of our sport.”
The BHA stressed at the time the charges were announced that Mullins was not involved in any alleged wrongdoing.