Racing: Berry is 25th arrest in race-fixing inquiry

Racing was jerked out of the comfort zone yesterday when the on-going investigation into allegations of race-fixing took in the arrest of three further men. The trainer Alan Berry, the jockey Paul Bradley and the farrier Steve O'Sullivan are being questioned by City of London Police investigating conspiracy to defraud after being detained at the trainer's Moss Side stables at Cockerham, near Lancaster, at around 7am yesterday.

Racing was jerked out of the comfort zone yesterday when the on-going investigation into allegations of race-fixing took in the arrest of three further men. The trainer Alan Berry, the jockey Paul Bradley and the farrier Steve O'Sullivan are being questioned by City of London Police investigating conspiracy to defraud after being detained at the trainer's Moss Side stables at Cockerham, near Lancaster, at around 7am yesterday.

It was a tasar shock for a sport still luxuriating in Ouija Board's success for Britain at America's Breeders' Cup meeting and looking forward to the battle of the jumping champions Azertyuiop and Moscow Flyer at Sandown this weekend.

The stench of skulduggery, it seems, has only been wafted away. The number of arrests in the police investigation now numbers 25, many of them involving figures little known outside the sport itself. Yet there is one man still under suspicion who is close as any to being a figurehead for racing. It is Ouija Board's rider himself.

Kieren Fallon has continued to ply his trade since the time he was one of 16 arrested and bailed in September. A further six people were arrested and bailed the following month. All 22 of the previously detained, including the jockeys Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams, the trainer Karl Burke and the owner Miles Rodgers, remain on bail and are due to return to police stations next April.

Fallon has previously said he was questioned about his involvement with Rodgers, formerly a director of the Platinum Racing Club syndicate. Rodgers was warned off for two years by the Jockey Club in March after he was found to have laid two of his syndicate's horses to lose on the leading betting exchange, Betfair. He has described the Jockey Club ruling as "a travesty" and denies wrongdoing.

During the overall investigation, more than 130 police officers have raided 19 addresses across Suffolk, Yorkshire and Hertfordshire. Police are analysing more than 1,000 exhibits, including 59 phones and several computers. The inquiry is examining allegations of fixing involving more than 80 races over the last two years.

"While Alan Berry's arrest brings racing the type of publicity it can ill afford, we must never forget that he, like all the others, is innocent until proved otherwise," Rupert Arnold, chief executive of the National Trainers' Federation, said. "We therefore hope that the police investigation is completed speedily so that any inference for the integrity of racing is clarified and can be dealt with for the benefit of the sport."

The Cockerham three were accused of a similar offence by the Jockey Club earlier this year, but the charge of conspiracy to defraud over the case of Hillside Girl collapsed.

The inquiry centred on the running of the Berry-trained filly at Carlisle in June of last year, when Hillside Girl drifted from 7-2 to 6-1, but also weakened from a shade of odds-on to 21-1 just before the off with Betfair.

In the race itself, the juvenile, partnered by Bradley, was slowly away before being pulled up at half-way, and a later examination revealed her to be lame on her near-fore leg. With suspicions heightened by bizarre betting patterns in the race, the Jockey Club's security department launched an investigation which closed in March, and four men [the amateur rider Dale Jewett was also implicated] were charged with laying the filly to lose on betting exchanges, knowing or suspecting she was lame and therefore could not win.

John Maxse, spokesman for the Jockey Club, said yesterday: "It [the current investigation] is in the hands of the police and I do not want to blur the lines. Ever since the City of London Police took the case on the investigation has been wholly in their hands."

Nevertheless, the Hillside Girl case remains a cause célèbre at Portman Square. Jewett and O'Sullivan could yet face disciplinary action if found guilty of "a corrupt or fraudulent practice", over their use of privileged information for betting purposes. Berry may come under scrutiny from the Licensing Committee over facts which emerged from the hearing, while racing itself finds itself, once again, under the unwelcome beady eye of those who would like to imagine the sport as hugely corrupt.

Alan Berry Factfile

Born: 30 May, 1963

Stable: Moss Side Racing , Cockerham, Lancs

First trainer's licence: 1 January, 2000

First winner: Garnock Valley, Southwell (all-weather), 3 January, 2000.

Most recent winner: Countrywide Girl, Wolverhampton (all-weather), 15 November, 2004.

Winners trained: 267, including 4 over jumps.

Best season: 76 winners in 2001.

Flat winners year-by-year: 2000 - 73, 2001 - 76, 2002 - 46, 2003 - 32, 2004 - 36 so far.

Best horses: Simianna, Strange Destiny, Red Millennium.

Biggest win: 2000 St Hugh's Stakes, Newbury.

Profile: Alan Berry had a hard act to follow as the son of the former trainer Jack Berry. Berry Snr, renowned for charitable works, turned out more than 1,500 winners and set records for the fastest 50, fastest 100, and most juvenile winners in a season. Berry Jnr was trained for the job, and his schooling included time with Tommy Skiffington in the US. He breezed through his rookie year with 73 winners, a record for a first-season trainer, and almost landed the Stewards' Cup at Goodwood. A chip off the old block, he proved adept with sprinters and two-year-olds and numbered among his owners Sir Alex Ferguson and Michael Owen. But equine illness hit the yard at the start of 2002 and the total of winners dropped alarmingly to just 46.

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