Eddie Ahern is the most well known person in a group of six who were yesterday charged with serious breaches of the rules of racing. Now he faces a wait of four months before a hearing of the British Horseracing Authority Disciplinary Committee considers whether or not he has been involved in fixing five races in which he was riding.
Also facing charges are former West Bromwich Albion footballer Neil Clement, who is a registered owner, James Clutterbuck, who was due to take over training from his father, Ken, next February, and three unlicensed people.
It has taken a long time for the BHA to gather enough information to go ahead with a case, as the races involved took place between September 2010 and February 2011. The most serious charge is that Ahern passed on inside information about the prospects of the horses he was riding in the races at Chester, Lingfield, Wolverhampton and Kempton (two occasions), that, as Rule (A) 41.2 puts it “would or might be used to gain an unfair advantage in the betting market.” Effectively, information that would allow them to lay the horses with confidence.
Table of Races
No. Date Race Horse Jockey
1 10.9.10 2.30pm, Chester 10th September 2010 in the 7½F Betdaq The Betting Exchange EBF SISINDU Eddie Ahern
2 8.12.10 2.20pm,Kempton 8th December 2010 in the 5f Racing at Skysports.com Handicap LOVE YOU LOUIS Eddie Ahern
3 21.1.11 1.25pm, Lingfield (AW), The Felbridge Handicap JUDGETHEMOMENT Eddie Ahern
4 10.2.11 8.40pm,Kempton 10th February 2011 in the 1m Betdaq The Betting Exchange Handicap FRENCH ART Eddie Ahern
5 11.2.11 5.40pm,Wolverhampton 11th February 2011 in the 5f 216 yrds Great Offers atWolverhampton-Racecourse.co.ukHandicap DOWNHILL SKIER Eddie Ahern
6 9.3.11 3.10pm, Lingfield –Breathe Spa at Lingfield Marriott Handicap STONEACRE GARETH Adam Kirby
He is also charged with receiving payment for this information, and in relation to one horse, Judgethemoment, at Lingfield on January 2011, that he intentionally failed to ensure the horse ran on its merits.
The disciplinary hearing is set for 29 April to 3 May next year, and if Ahern is found to have transgressed the rules, he will be set for a substantial period on the sidelines, one that is likely to be measured in years rather than weeks or months.
Ahern’s only comment yesterday was effectively a no comment. He was at Lingfield, where he said, “I don’t want to say anything at the moment and just find out first what I am meant to have done and then I will make a statement.” He can hardly be unaware as a month ago he had to cancel plans to ride in India over the winter after the BHA informed the Bangalore Turf Club that Ahern was under investigation.
It’s important to make it absolutely clear that Ahern is accused of acting on his own in relation to all these races, and there is no suggestion that the trainers had either knowledge or involvement in what was going on. That’s also the case with regard to jockey Adam Kirby and trainer Ken Clutterbuck with regard to the race at Lingfield in which Stoneacre Gareth ran. Kirby, though, is charged with failing to ensure a horse ran on its merits, but in an entirely separate enquiry
This is the only race covered by the inquiry in which Ahern is not involved. Here, it is James Clutterbuck who is accused of passing in information to Clement and the other three defendants. Their case will be heard next March. Clutterbuck was forthright in setting out his position yesterday saying, “It’s absolutely ridiculous. I backed the horse on the day on-course at Lingfield and now all this has come about. They (the BHA) are just trying to get the little man at the end of the day, that’s how it goes.”
Clutterbuck’s father was quick to leap to his defence, saying, it was "totally ridiculous" of the BHA to charge his son. He said: “I backed the horse to win at Lingfield and James backed it to win. The horse had gone up a lot in the handicap and it was his third run in about 10 days. Adam (Kirby) rode the horse perfectly well. James hasn't got the money to fight the BHA. He has been sorting out getting his licence for the last couple of months as he was going to take over from me in February, but obviously they put that on hold until this came out. We'll have to see what happens in May, but it's totally ridiculous.”
Rightly, the BHA takes all cases of potential corruption seriously. In this case, the sums of money involve are tiny in relation to the overall exchange market in any race, and in relation to the usual betting activity of the people involved. They are suggested to have laid Stoneacre Gareth for just £50 and £100. I’m not suggesting that should be ignored, but it certainly should be acknowledged in any punishment that’s handed out.
What is strange is that after taking the best part of two years to pull together their evidence, the BHA doesn’t hold a hearing for another four months. I suppose it must be to give the defendants time to put their argument together, but it does seem an awfully long period to have the threat of being warned off hanging over you.