'Fraudulent racing firm used Champion to draw customers'

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The Independent Online

The Grand National winning jockey Bob Champion joined a company thinking it would give the "man in the street" a chance to be involved in racing but it turned out to be fraudulent, Basildon Crown Court heard yesterday.

The Grand National winning jockey Bob Champion joined a company thinking it would give the "man in the street" a chance to be involved in racing but it turned out to be fraudulent, Basildon Crown Court heard yesterday.

Mr Champion said he agreed to become a non-executive director of Classic Bloodstock II, assuming it was legitimate and would help more people be involved in racing and breeding horses.

The company was set up by racing tipster Ron Dawson, 62, and his wife Maureen, 41, who used to run stables in Newmarket, Suffolk, but now live in Alicante, Spain. They are charged with their former accountant, Andrew Irish, 48, of conspiracy to defraud, which they all deny. Mr Dawson also denies false accounting and paying himself a £100,000 loan from another of his businesses.

Mr Champion, 52, who won the 1981 Grand National on Aldaniti after recovering from cancer, said he was a neighbour of Mr Dawson in Newmarket and was aware he ran a company called Classic Bloodstock.

He told the court that about six years ago Mr Dawson asked him if he wanted to be involved in a new version of the firm, Classic Bloodstock II. "Basically, they were using my name as a little bit of PR to try to get more people in the company and they were offering me so many horses to train," he said.

Mr Champion said he made it clear he would be a non-executive director but wanted nothing to do with the day-to-day running of the business.

The court was told the company had raised about £1m but Mr Champion said he knew nothing about the costs although he had attended three board meetings and had initialed some documents.

When the trial started last week, the court heard Classic Bloodstock II went into liquidation in 1996 and investors who had put in £500 were left with £200.

Michael Elsom, prosecuting for the Department of Trade and Industry, said there was no need for the second company to be formed and its sole purpose was "dishonesty".

The case continues.

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