Charles Byrnes set to resume training after suspension over Viking Hoard case

Trainer’s licence was withdrawn after runner ‘nobbled’ with sedative in 2018

Charles Byrnes is set to resume training when his six-month suspension over the infamous Viking Hoard case finishes on Friday.

The Co Limerick trainer found himself at the centre of controversy after it emerged earlier this year that his runner, Viking Hoard, was “nobbled” with a sedative at the Tramore racecourse stables in 2018.

Byrnes was banned after being found to have been “seriously negligent” by an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB ) referrals panel in relation to his supervision of Viking Hoard at Tramore in October of 2018.

The case saw Irish racing thrust into an uncomfortable spotlight on the back of how the horse was doped by an unidentified third party after being laid to lose on the Betfair exchange.


Viking Hoard was found to have 100 times the safe limit of a sedative (ACP) in his system after being pulled up in a hurdle race.

At the initial hearing it was established that the horse had been left unattended in his stable at the racecourse for an unreasonable period of time and Byrnes was suspended for that negligence.

His subsequent appeal, where his negligence was described as “inexcusable”, was dismissed.

The case provoked widespread coverage and put the IHRB into a position of having to insist the sport in Ireland is clean.

Byrnes’s suspension began on March 4th and finishes later this week. He declined to comment when contacted on Monday but the IHRB said he has applied for his licence.

Resume career

“He will have to meet the licensing committee, possibly within the next week,” an IHRB spokesman said.

Such a meeting is anticipated to be little more than a formality, with Byrnes about to resume a career that saw him first saddle a winner in 1995.

He has enjoyed major success over the years with horses such as the Cheltenham festival winners Solwhit and Weapons Amnesty.

In June, Byrnes's son Cathal was granted a licence to train at the family's base near Ballingarry. It is unclear what his future plans are.

Byrnes admitted earlier this year the entire matter had been “very upsetting” for him and his family.

Ahead of his unsuccessful appeal in February he commented: “I can’t go into specifics but we don’t believe that we were in any way negligent.”

He was critical of the IHRB investigation for dragging on over a number of years and how no one was held to account for having laid the horse on the betting exchange.

When it was put to him that he had a popular reputation as a trainer feared by bookmakers, he responded: “That’s not the way I operate. I don’t lay horses. I back horses.”

Next week is also set to see the return to training of Gordon Elliott when his six-month suspension for a notorious image of him sitting on a head horse on his gallops in 2019 draws to a close.

The image emerged earlier this year and saw Elliott given a one-year ban – half of it suspended – for damaging racing’s reputation with conduct described as horrific and “wholly inappropriate and distasteful” by a referrals panel.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column