Alderbrook story angers Pick: Racing

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The Independent Online
Ernie Pick, owner of the former champion hurdler Alderbrook, was a surprised and annoyed man yesterday as he digested a report that the stable lad who looked after his horse at Kim Bailey's yard in Lambourn had twice been offered a pounds 3,000 bribe to stop him winning.

The first approach was made to Chris Robinson before Alderbrook's victory in the 1995 Champion Hurdle, and the second before he was due to run in the Martell Hurdle at Aintree last April. Both offers were refused.

What was perplexing Pick, however, was that while Robinson had told Bailey of the attempted bribery, and the trainer had immediately passed the information on to both the Jockey Club's security department and the local police, Pick himself knew nothing of the matter until yesterday's Racing Post dropped onto his doormat. "I couldn't believe it," he said yesterday, "I thought the newspaper people had delivered the Sun by mistake.''

Since his training bills amounted to more than pounds 200 per week, Pick believes - and few would disagree - that he should have been made aware of the threats to his horse's well-being. "Kim Bailey has made a serious mistake with regard to his communication skills," the owner said. "It certainly leaves a bad taste. I'd like to know why, and I'd also like to know why he hasn't rung me today. If I'm paying somebody to do a job, I expect them to do it.

"You've got a problem with trainers anyway, they're in a world of their own, and they don't like people asking too many questions. But I'm the sort of person who does ask questions."

Bailey himself was unavailable for comment yesterday. One query which the owner would like answered is why Robinson should suddenly decide to tell his story now, almost two years after the first attempt was made to bribe him.

That attempt occurred shortly after Alderbrook's victory in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, before which he had been supported at odds as long as 50-1 to win the Champion Hurdle and some bookies, it seems, were very keen that he should not appear at Cheltenham. Fourteen months later, after Alderbrook's defeat by Collier Bay in the Champion, Robinson says he was again offered money, this time to ensure that the horse would not win at Aintree. It transpired, though, that Alderbrook could not run at Liverpool because of fast ground.

The police were informed of the second approach, and an attempt made to ensnare those involved - described yesterday in a splendidly Victorian turn-of-phrase as "local ne'er-do-wells", by Roger Buffham, the Jockey Club's head of security.

David Pipe, the Club's director of public affairs, said: "As far as I know, the matter is now closed, which is a pity because we would have been very happy to get three guys in the dock at Reading Crown Court. Chris Robinson acted very responsibly. It is just a pity we did not get a result.''

As Pipe also pointed out, the plot did not succeed, and it is true that improved security measures since the notorious Doncaster dopings in 1990 mean that it would now be very difficult to nobble a horse at a race track, particularly on Grand National day.

Skulduggery after midnight in the stableyard, however, is another matter, and it may well be that Pick has Robinson's honesty to thank for the Champion Hurdle trophy sitting on his mantlepiece.

It is a shame that the people who tried to get at Alderbrook were not arrested and prosecuted, but one further question must be why it is that the Jockey Club itself seems reluctant to take any further action against the people involved.

The Club appears well aware of their identities, not to mention the fact that there are three of them, and if nothing else, could surely warn them off; that is, ban them from all racecourses. This is something which should give pause for thought not just to Ernie Pick, but to anyone who enjoys a bet.

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