Ronan McNally’s monster Navan gamble to be investigated

Cheltenham Festival - Thursday

British Horseracing Authority analysts are set to examine betting patterns as part of the investigation into a monster gamble landed by Dreal Deal, trained by Ronan McNally who ran at Navan on Saturday.

The horse was backed from 20-1 overnight but went off 6-4 favourite for the handicap hurdle. Considering his best finish from 11 starts prior was 8th, alarm bells started ringing.

He very nearly parted company with jockey Eoin O’Brien at the first and the horse dropped to last looking a very unlikely winner. However, he recovered and travelled smoothly through the race to win by six lengths.

Incredible improvement

The senior National Hunt handicapper described the performance as being an improvement “in excess of two stone”. As a consequence, the stewards have referred the matter to the Referrals Committee.

Last year McNally felt he was being “treated like a criminal” by the BHA after The Jam Man’s win at Southwell. That same horse had a blood test done last week after finishing 2nd on the Flat.

Are the authorities playing a fair game here? JP McManus, Sir Mark Prescott and others pull off huge gambles on a regular basis and these do not result in enquiries. Why?

McNally defends himself

McNally was on Racing TV on Sunday to defend himself. He said he backed Dreal Deal himself at both 3-1 and 6-4 for a “wee bit of luck”. However, he was adamant that he had no part in a gamble that started at odds of 20/1.

He also stated that “the whole betting game now is a bit of a farce”. He also stated that if a horse was 20-1, then £100 would move it to 12-1.

His explanation to the stewards was that his yard “had been under a cloud since November 2019 and aspergillus had been the diagnosed problem to explain the illness of all his horses. He felt that this condition accounted for their abysmal performances.”

McNally is not the only hard-working Irish trainer to come under investigation. An IHRB spokesman also said on Sunday that an investigation is ongoing into a controversial race involving a pair of Denis Hogan trained runners. Yuften and Tony The Gent headed the betting at Dundalk in March and the race had unusual betting patterns.

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