It’s just a week now since the British Horseracing Authority announced the punishment on people found to have been involved in the biggest corruption investigation in British horseracing for many years. If anyone thought that was the end of the matter, they were sorely mistaken, as several of those involved are planning an appeal against their suspension.
Four jockeys, Paul Doe, Greg Fairley, Kirsty Milczarek and Jimmy Quinn were drawn into the activities of a betting ring operated by two racehorse owners, Maurice Sines and James Crickmore, along with five other people. Between them the 11 people have been warned off for a total of 66 years and individually for periods between six months and 14 years.
Following the announcement of the penalties, Paul Scotney, BHA Director of Integrity Services, Compliance and Licensing said, "Whilst it is the names of the jockeys the racing public will recognise, people should be under no illusions that it is the lesser-known names who the instigators of the serious breaches of the rules. What lies at the heart of the investigation are the actions of two individuals, Maurice Sines and James Crickmore, who, together with their associates, were prepared to corrupt jockeys and to cheat at betting by the misuse of "inside information".
The conspiracy centred on laying horses to lose on betting exchanges in 10 races between January and August 2009. As the ringleaders, Sines and Crickmore were each banned from British racing for a period of 14 years. Yesterday, their solicitor Colin Nott said that both would be submitting an appeal "against both the conviction and sentence. That is on a legal procedural matter concerning conviction and on the lengths of the sentences handed down."
In perhaps the most outrageous plea of mitigation ever submitted, Crickmore suggested that he should receive a lesser sentence than co-conspirator Sines because racing played a more important part in his social life. In a rare display of good judgement and firmness the BHA dismissed this call for mercy saying, “If it does, the disciplinary panel was happy, indeed keen, to interfere with that.”
Of the four jockeys involved, Doe and Fairley were found to have deliberately stopped horses from obtaining the best possible place in their races and also to have conspired with others to commit fraudulent practices in relation to racing. They were both stood down for 12 years, but had announced their retirement from racing during the course of the investigation. Since that time Doe seems to have disappeared altogether.
Fairley has been helped by the Jockeys Employment and Training Scheme to make a new start and is now working in forestry. The scheme spent £1500 teaching him how to use a chainsaw, and although they knew he was under investigation when the training took place, Lisa Delany, manager of the scheme said they would not ask him to repay the money. "Three directors and I had a good discussion about this and we decided we are happy with our policy as it stands. We will continue to treat jockeys on the basis that they are innocent until proven guilty, as the BHA does; obviously, they can continue to ride until the point their band. We are happy to fund jockeys if they are eligible for JETS support and have contributed to the scheme." She added that Fairley had paid into JETS while he was riding and also paid some of the costs of retraining himself.
His former employer, trainer Mark Johnston, himself a BHA director said yesterday, "I find the matter terribly sad and I've no idea why all this has happened. It's clear in the report that the jockeys were not the instigators. They were used. I wonder to what extent they were used and also to what extent they were too frightened to speak out against these people. I'm terribly concerned Greg felt unable to talk about what was going on. He told us nothing. He was clearly a very talented rider. I wouldn't have considered him untrustworthy in any way. He is not a criminal. That's all the more reason why a 12 year ban seems so extraordinary".
Milczarek and Quinn were both found to have breached the conspiracy rule, and Milczarek was also found to have passed information on reward. She was disqualified for three years, the minimum period in relation to each offence. In setting the penalties to run concurrently the BHA said that it recognised that Milczarek and not instigated her involvement in conspiracy, but was recruited, and being relatively young at the time may have meant she was more vulnerable to pressure.
Her solicitor, Christopher Stewart-Moore immediately signalled her intention to appeal. He said, "We think the panel's reasoning is flawed and we going to be appealing to the BHA appeal board as Kirsty was not involved in any conspiracy of any kind".
Quinn’s ban of six months was the minimum period available to the panel for the conspiracy charge of which he was found guilty. The disciplinary panel found that in the two races where his riding was under suspicion he had, in fact, ridden both of them on their merits, and so this charge was dismissed. As Quinn’s solicitor Rory MacNeice made clear, "that recognition by the panel is very important because it underlines Jimmy's commitment to riding each horse he rides on its merits and in order to achieve that horse’s best possible placing. The panel in their decision made specific reference to his ride on Quince, a horse on which one, given what the panel called an astute ride. By winning that race, the gamblers who won the subject of this enquiry lost £80,000.
It's perhaps that finding, along with his long riding career with no previous serious disciplinary problems that has led Quinn to accept his ban. He plans to resume his riding career next June once he has served his suspension, and it seems likely that he will be able to do so without too much difficulty. He said, "I've been overwhelmed with phone calls I've had from owners and trainers offering their support – so many that the battery on my phone is dead. I'll recommence riding out in Newmarket early in the New Year and aim to be raring to go by June."
Unlike the television soaps, neither this story nor the BHA's other long-running saga about the whip rules has a major Christmas cliffhanger. But equally clearly, there will be more twists and turns in the New Year before the book closes on either of them.