Gang 'doped favourites to bet on other horses'

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A team of gamblers rigged the results of two horse races in Devon and Sussex by doping the favourites with a sedative, a court was told yesterday.

A team of gamblers rigged the results of two horse races in Devon and Sussex by doping the favourites with a sedative, a court was told yesterday.

The five men won thousands of pounds after betting on the second or joint favourites, ajury was told.

Suspicion was aroused when the jockeys reported that their highly rated horses were responding sluggishly. Post-race examinations carried out at the two meetings, held in 1997 at Exeter in Devon and Plumpton in East Sussex, revealed that each horse had been doped with a performance-inhibiting drug called ACP, or acetylpromazine.

But race officials had no idea who was behind the plot until eight months later when Raymond Butler, 52, was found to have syringes containing traces of the drug hidden in his kitchen, Southwark Crown Court in London was told.

Detectives later found that telephone records showed the five accused men had frequently contacted each other on the days of the two meetings.

Raymond Butler, 52, of Cricklewood, north London; Adam Hodgson, 37, of Langley, Slough, Berkshire; Jason Moore, 30, of Woodford Green, Essex; John Matthews, 36, of Slough; and Glen Gill, 34, of Fareham, Hampshire, are charged with conspiracy to defraud between 1 March and 1 April 1997. They all deny the allegation.

Richard Whittam, for the prosecution, said: "It is the Crown's case that these defendants were members of ateam that set out to dope racehorses for gain by betting on one or more of the horses who were not doped."

At the Exeter race meeting, in the 2.15 HMS Exeter Novices Handicap Hurdle on 7 March, Avanti Express, one of only two runners in the field considered to have a "realistic" chance of winning, had to be pulled out by jockey Jamie Osborne before the end. Its closest rival, Give And Take, romped home the winner in the 11-horse race, said Mr Whittam.

All the defendants exceptMr Gill travelled from their homes in the London area to be at Exeter, despite the fact there was a big meeting on the same day at Sandown, practically on their doorsteps, the court was told.

The men were also seen leaving immediately after the second race, which featured Avanti Express. Mr Hodgson was filmed trying to get into a secure area.

Mr Whittam said that during the race the jockey Jamie Osborne noticed that the horse was sluggish.

Urine tests later showedthe presence of the mild sedative ACP, which had only been discovered once in a horse since 1992.

The gamblers allegedly struck a second time in the Seeboard Novice Chase, the fifth race on the card at Plumpton on 29 March.

Lively Knight, ridden by Leighton Aspell, was the favourite of the three horses racing, with starting odds of1-7 on.

But once again the highly fancied horse proved to be slow and never competed with the eventual winner Stormhill Pilgrim, eventually coming in a poor second. Urine tests again showed that the favourite had been drugged.

An investigation was launched and it was noticed that Mr Butler had been present at both races. A search of his home reveaaled a syringe bearing traces of the drug and a syringe that had been adapted to administer dope to horses, the court was told.

The case continues.