Top jockeys questioned over race-fixing and doping claims

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The Independent Online
TWO OF Britain's senior jockeys, Ray Cochrane and Graham Bradley, were arrested yesterday in connection with inquiries by the Metropolitan Police into allegations of horse doping and race-fixing.

Cochrane, who won the Derby on Kahyasi in 1988, and Bradley, a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner on Bregawn in 1983, were questioned at Charing Cross police station, in central London. Charlie Brooks, until recently a leading trainer and frequent employer of Bradley, also attended the police station yesterday. His solicitor said later that he had done so voluntarily to offer his assistance, and that Brooks had "never at any stage participated in any activities which would contravene the rules of racing".

The arrests bring to five the number of jockeys questioned by police during the course of a 22-month investigation. Three National Hunt jockeys, Dean Gallagher, Leighton Aspell and Jamie Osborne, were arrested in January 1998, although both Aspell and Osborne have been told that they will not face charges. Gallagher and five other men are bailed to reappear at Charing Cross on 10 March.

Both Bradley, 38, and Cochrane, 41, who is the first Flat jockey to be arrested, are among the most familiar names to punters in Britain's betting shops. As well as the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Bradley has ridden the winners of the King George VI Chase and Hennessy Gold Cup, while Cochrane's record includes success in the Oaks, the Irish Derby and the 1,000 Guineas.

The investigation was initiated by the Jockey Club, which administers the Rules of Racing, after two horses tested positive for tranquillisers in March 1997. Avanti Express, who ran at Exeter on 7 March, and Lively Knight, a runner at Plumpton on 29 March, were strongly fancied for their races, but ran poorly. Avanti Express was 5-4 second-favourite for a hurdle race, while Lively Knight , who started at odds of 1-7 (7-1 on) but finished second of three runners in a steeplechase, was one of the hottest favourites of the year. Subsequent dope tests showed that both had been given Acetylpromazine, a fast-acting tranquilliser, probably no more than half an hour before their races.

The Jockey Club called in the Metropolitan Police in May 1997, and soon afterwards the scope of the investigation was widened to include possible race-fixing. Unlike doping, which will almost certainly be uncovered by post-race tests, race fixing is very difficult to detect. If a group of jockeys conspires to ensure that a well-fancied runner wins, and then backs it accordingly, all that the public will see is another winning favourite.

In a statement yesterday afternoon, the Jockey Club, while not referring to the jockeys by name, said that "the mere fact of their arrest... did not pose a sufficient threat to public confidence or the proper conduct of meetings to justify immediate suspension". It added, however, that "the matter will be kept under review".

When Osborne, Aspell and Gallagher were arrested last year, their licences were immediately suspended, only to be restored a week later. Osborne said yesterday that "the Organised Crime group at Scotland Yard seem to be running a little bit out of control and what I should urge everybody to do in this situation is not to draw conclusions".