Stephen Arnold, colourful racehorse owner, has been banned by the BHA for three months for laying his horses to lose.
The leniency of the ban, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years, and a recommended entry point of eighteen months, reflects the fact that Arnold was not aiming to profit directly from the lay bets.
Instead, Arnold was attempting to manipulate the early odds markets in such a way that bookmakers would believe his horses - which run in the red and white quarters of rakebackmypoker.com - were unfancied for their engagements. By causing a drift in the illiquid early exchange markets, Arnold hoped that bookmakers would push his charges out in price, allowing him to then back them at better odds.
This is a fairly common practice among professional backers, such is the ease with which the morning markets can be re-shaped. Arnold's mistake was to lay horses that he owns. That is a serious breach of the rules of racing, and one which would have doubtless seen his colours off the track for much longer.
The British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel took into account that Arnold was not actually seeking to profit from laying his horses, but rather from backing them at inflated odds later in the day. In that context, they handed down the minimum ban that such a charge can carry.
Arnold has had an interesting twelve months. Almost exactly a year ago, on 21st December 2012, Brown Pete won a Class 7 0-50 handicap at Wolverhampton. Nothing special about that, but the circumstances of the victory were bizarre. Brown Pete was one of four horses in the race trained by Violet Jordan, the other three being declared non-runners.
Not only that, but Jordan had other entries on the same card - Cut The Cackle and Slatey Hen - also owned by Arnold through rakebackmypoker.com, which were also non-runners. The reason for this glut of absentees was given as a horsebox breaking down.
Of the two horses that were able to make it to Wolverhampton for the trainer that day, Brown Pete was one of them. He was supported from 10/1 in the morning to a starting price of 5/2, and won by three-and-a-quarter lengths.
And, as recently as last Tuesday, that same horse, Brown Pete, was withdrawn from his intended engagement at Wolverhampton at the request of the stewards. This time it was to do with a logistical anomaly.
Arnold had reportedly moved all twenty-one of his horses to Ann Stokell's Southwell yard. In a scene which must have made prison over-crowding look like the population distribution of Finland, it turns out that Stokell officially only has nine boxes.
Arnold disputes the official verdict, saying on twitter that "for the record the horses are not across the road they are in the same barn ann [Stokell] has been running her horses out of for 13 months". He even helpfully included a yard plan.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the various incidents, it does seem that one of racing's more interesting 'non-league' owners has had his wings clipped, for the time being at least.