Police officer quizzed on betting knowledge

John Matthews and Glen Gill, who face charges relating to the doping of two racehorses in 1997, both placed successful £400 bets on the races in question, a jury here heard yesterday. The court also heard that both men placed bets of a similar size, or greater, on almost a daily basis.

John Matthews and Glen Gill, who face charges relating to the doping of two racehorses in 1997, both placed successful £400 bets on the races in question, a jury here heard yesterday. The court also heard that both men placed bets of a similar size, or greater, on almost a daily basis.

Matthews and Gill, along with Jason Moore, Raymond Butler and Adam Hodgson, face a single count of conspiracy to defraud between 1 March and 1 April 1997. All five deny the charge.

The court heard yesterday that Matthews placed £400 on Stormhill Pilgrim, the winner of a three-runner race at Plumpton on 29 March 1997, with the bookmaker Victor Chandler. The trial has already been told that the favourite for that race, who started at 1-7 but finished only second, was Lively Knight. A post-race dope test on Lively Knight was positive for acetylpromazine (ACP), a sedative.

However, under questioning from John Kelsey Fry QC, representing Matthews, Detective Constable Peter Kelly, a member of the team which investigated the dopings, agreed that Matthews frequently bet in such sums. Fry listed a series of bets placed by Matthews with Chandler during 1997, including a bet of £4,000 on a loser, several of £1,000 or more, and numerous three-figure wagers. "It would appear," Fry told Kelly, "that the bet to which attention has been drawn was in fact one tenth of the size of the largest bet in these accounts." Kelly agreed this was the case.

The court also heard that when police arrested Gill in February 1998, they found a number of account books detailing his bets. These included a £400 bet on Stormhill Pilgrim at 9-1, a reverse forecast on Stormhill Pilgrim and Cruise Control, the other runner in the race, and £800 at 5-4 on Give And Take, the winner of a novice hurdle at Exeter on 7 March. The court has already heard that Avanti Express, who was strongly fancied for this race, was pulled up when running poorly. Subsequently, he too tested positive for ACP.

The jury was told that when interviewed by police, Gill said: "Every horse has got its chance. They put up 9-1, so if it wins once out of eight times you make a profit. It's mathematics." He also said that, for him, £400 was "a small investment".

Cross-examined by Jeremy Gompertz QC, representing Gill, Kelly admitted that when he began investigating the alleged race-fixing, he had little knowledge of racing or betting. "Did you understand the concept of value in betting?" Gompertz asked him. "I couldn't understand it," Kelly answered. "Your view," Gompertz continued, "is that only a lunatic or a fraudsman would oppose odds-on chances?" Kelly replied: "I would say that it would be somebody who either knew something or was inexperienced."

Gompertz then detailed the fate of the 72 odds-on favourites which ran in Britain between 3 September and 4 October. This showed that a £10 bet on each would have shown a loss of £96.32, or 14 per cent. A £10 bet on the 20 which started at 2-1 on or less would have show a loss of £64.50, about 32 per cent. "Backing odds-on chances is the road to perdition, isn't it?" Gompertz asked. Kelly said: "I couldn't disagree with you, sir."

The court heard details of a police interview with Raymond Butler, in which he admitted placing a bet of £500 on Give And Take before the race at Exeter, on behalf of John Matthews. "I often go racing with him and place bets for him if he's on the phone or something," Butler said in the interview. "He likes to bet favourites, and told me to put the money on the favourite. I presume that when I went down, that horse was favourite."

The case continues.

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