Most British Horseracing Authority Disciplinary Panels meet to hear evidence about the running of a horse or the riding of a jockey. A Panel to consider whether there has been behaviour “which the Authority considers to be prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing in Great Britain" is unusual, but that’s what trainer Kieran Burke and owner Anthony Knott are facing.
There’s no denying from anyone that in last month’s Byrne Group Plate at Cheltenham, Knott allowed, as the BHA puts it “the letters ‘PP’ in white against a green background to be placed upon the hindquarters of the horse”. As we commoners might put it, the horse ran with an advert for Paddy Power on its backside.
Knott saw this as a bit of fun, which was justified by the £10,000 it raised for the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. Now I don’t doubt for a minute that this is a very worthy cause, and like all air ambulance services, depends primarily on public fund raising to remain in operation. But whether that justifies bookmaker advertising is another matter.
Just how seriously the BHA view it is shown by the charge against Knott and Burke falling under Rule A (30), where the emphasis is on the integrity of racing, as well as Rule A (39), which refers to breaches of the Code of Contact about sponsorship. This latter typically results in fines of around £150, whereas Knott and Burke are facing possible fines of 100 times that amount (£15,000 if you don’t want to do the maths) and a ban of up to three years.
Whilst there is every probability that the bookmaker would stump up for any fine imposed, as they did the £80,000 that footballer Nicklas Bendtner was stung during last year’s European Championship tournament, it will be the ban that will be of more concern to the pair. Knott claims that, “It was just a bit of fun at the end of the day, and we didn’t realise we were breaking any rules. It was for a good cause and it leaves a bit of a sour taste that it has come to this.”
Sorry chaps, but ignorance of the rules has never been a good ploy for the defence.