Racing: Ancient spectre takes on new guise in exchange era

For centuries, racing has been littered with stories of corruption. But it is the contemporary heat of these latest events that makes them so alarming.

For centuries, racing has been littered with stories of corruption. But it is the contemporary heat of these latest events that makes them so alarming.

Where there is betting, there are bound to be attempts at "fixing" the outcome: football, cricket and snooker are just three other sports that have found this out to their cost, but racing remains the preferred choice of those who seek to profit from skulduggery.

It has been that way ever since Daniel Dawson was sentenced to death in 1812 for fatally poisoning three racehorses. Then, 32 years later, the Derby, Britain's most sacred race, was scarred by the discovery that a race restricted to three-year-olds was "won" by the four-year-old Maccabaeus, masquerading under the name Running Rein.

Every hot favourite that runs badly has always attracted a sniff of suspicion. Pas Seul in the 1962 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Ribofilio in the 1969 2,000 Guineas, and Gorytus in the 1982 Dewhurst Stakes are just three horses widely thought to have been "nobbled".

But rumours of doping become gruesome and unavoidable fact in 1990 when two horses, Norwich and Bravefoot, were found to have been "got at" by someone using ACP, a tranquilliser that is used for legitimate purposes such as calming a fractious horse when its coat needs to be clipped.

It emerged - a decade later - that the pair were part of an astonishing 23-horse doping spree within a two-month period that was administered by a former trainer and jockey called Dermot Browne. Many in racing, perhaps aware that Browne knew, metaphorically, where the bodies were buried, claimed he was a loose cannon whose word could not be trusted. The Jockey Club disagreed, banning him for 20 years, after studying his confessions and accepting his version of events.

Browne claimed he was acting in cahoots with Brian Wright, since named by police as the man suspected of being Britain's biggest cocaine dealer. Wright is currently on the run, but his son Brian was one of seven men tried at Woolwich Crown Court, in a case that lasted 14 months, following the seizure of £61 million worth of cocaine. He was found guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine and sentenced to 16 years in 2002.

Wright Snr is a racing fanatic. He had a contacts book that was seized by police which was packed with some of racing's biggest names - including many élite jockeys. What were they doing there? Wright was well-known as a lavish entertainer on racecourses; it may be that he was a "groupie" star struck by the opportunity to mix with people involved in a sport he had loved since childhood.

Others suspected differently, not least the Jockey Club, which has "warned off", or banned, Wright from racecourses. Wright himself has in the past presented himself as a professional gambler, and one who was not afraid to cross the line in search of winning results. "I ran a huge operation and had a string of jockeys giving me vital information," he was once quoted as saying. "If I needed a rider to win or lose a race, he did. If I wanted to fix a race, I could."

Wright was one of 15 people, including five jockeys, arrested in 1998 as part of a race-fixing investigation that was badly handled by both the Jockey Club and the police. No one was convicted, although one of the arrested jockeys, Graham Bradley, who is now retired, has turned to the High Court to halt a Jockey Club ban that was subsequently imposed on him.

Bradley, during a separate cocaine trial at Southampton Crown Court, had admitted in his evidence that he had received cash and other rewards from Wright in return for "privileged" punting information.

Since then, racing's integrity has found itself fighting a new spectre - betting exchanges, the internet gambling phenomenon that allows people for the first time to "lay" a horse and thus profit when it doesn't win. Traditional, high-street bookmakers offer win opportunities only.

For the last four years, virtually all Jockey Club investigations into alleged corruption have focused on betting exchange activity.

Betting exchanges were linked to two races in early March, when the riders Kieren Fallon and Sean Fox were each banned for 21 days for riding injudicious races.

Another jockey, Gary Carter, has been charged by the Jockey Club over allegations that he rode eight non-triers during a two-month period last year.

Ironically, in May Ladbrokes' chief, Chris Bell, was roundly condemned for claiming in an interview that "one race per day in British racing is fixed". Suddenly his views do not seem so outrageous.

Richard Griffiths is author of 'Racing In The Dock: The inside story of the biggest scandal in racing history'

ANATOMY OF A FIX: HOW IT COULD BE DONE

By Chris Corrigan

JOCKEYS A, B, C, D, & E decide that in a five-horse race the following day Jockey E (aboard Red Joker) will be the winner. They collude and agree to adopt a variety of tactics in the race itself:

JOCKEY A: Sets off at a breakneck gallop from the very start - certain that his mount will tire well before the finish.

JOCKEY B: Restrains horse in last place until, less than two furlongs from the winning line, rides vigorously to produce a challenge - but it is all too late.

JOCKEY C: In the closing stages he starts "whipping" his horse, a lazy type known to need plenty of driving, but the horse does not respond. The whip is not actually making contact - it's called "cosmetic whipping" and some riders are experts at it.

JOCKEY D: Need not do anything special because he knows his mount is not fit - the trainer hasn't galloped the horse for a fortnight.

JOCKEY E: Red Joker is positioned in midfield until his rider strikes for home three furlongs out. No danger.

THE WINNING POST: Red Joker wins by two lengths at 5-1 - and the jockeys are laughing all the way to the bank thanks to accomplices on-track and off-track:

ON TRACK: Two bookmakers known to the gang have, leading up to the race, been offering the biggest odds against horses A, B, C & D. They thus attract a huge weight of money staked by punters on the four certain losers. The same bookies offer the meanest odds against Red Joker - thus avoiding bets on him.

OFF TRACK: Associates of the jockeys have been tapping away at computer keyboards all day, logged on to betting exchanges. They operate accounts in their own names, or in the names of family and friends. Systematically, they set about backing Red Joker, while at the same time accepting numerous stakes on A, B, C & D - knowing these bets can't win.

SECRET: The imaginary tale above is over-simplified. If the participants behaved quite like that it would rapidly alert the entire racing village that a conspiracy was afoot. The plot's success therefore depends on those in the know being restricted to a tightly-knit group, placing and laying bets sensitively. Their secret is - don't be too greedy now. There are plenty more races to fix ...

Suggested Topics
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker