The Jockey Club will meet this morning to discuss the fate of Kieren Fallon, the champion jockey, following allegations that he was involved in race-fixing.
The racing regulator, which had already planned to interview Fallon over apparent irregularities during a race at Lingfield, Surrey, last week, stepped up its investigation after a Sunday newspaper claimed the rider was acting as a "Mr Fixit" in a betting scam.
Fallon, in a series of meetings and telephone conversations, apparently advised undercover reporters from the News of the World not to back his mount at the race in Lingfield and offered numerous - and mostly accurate - tips on other races.
Fallon, a six-times champion jockey who has ridden 600 winners in the past four years, allegedly told the reporters the Lingfield investigation was triggered by "jealous" officials and an associate told reporters that any payments for betting advice could made to a relative. He could lose his licence if the Jockey Club considers that the apparent exposé amounts to "passing on privileged information in return for financial reward".
The newspaper claimed it launched the undercover investigation last month to address concerns from "highly placed betting sources". Fallon allegedly told reporters not to back his mount, Ballinger Ridge, but to put their money on a horse called Rye. "I'm down as favourite, but Rye, that'll win," he reportedly said.
Three hours later, suspicions were raised across the racing world when Fallon, with a comfortable lead, eased up and was pipped at the post by Rye. Claims that the race had been fixed were fuelled when the Jockey Club confirmed it had been alerted to irregular elements of the betting totalling £1.5m shortly before the start.
Fallon apparently passed on numerous accurate tips to the reporters, who were posing as "Middle Eastern high-rollers looking for inside [information] to fleece the betting system".
Out of a total of 10 tips, the newspaper reported, he chose seven winners, with two finishing in the first three and only one loser. With a stake of £10,000 on each tip, it would have made a profit of almost £170,000, though no such bets were made.
Fallon, at a final meeting with the paper last Friday in Mijas, southern Spain, where he had been due to ride at the weekend, dismissed the Lingfield investigation and said he was in the clear as long as he did not accept any money.
Fallon, who already faced a 21-day ban for failing to "ride out" at Lingfield, said of the Jockey Club: "They don't like me, that's the bottom of it, because nobody likes a winner all the time. They like to see you ****ing losing because they get jealous."
Asked what he charged for his tips, he reportedly said: "It's a long-term thing, not short term, you know. If you give me a pound, a bottle of wine, I accept a present, we are ****ed.
"If you are in on this, then there are no limits to the bets ... it's not illegal for you; it's illegal for us." John Egan, his friend and fellow jockey, reportedly added: "You can give it to my son. You give it to somebody else you know. If we accept anything we're finished."
The Jockey Club, which holds its monthly regulatory board meeting at its headquarters in Portman Square, London, today, may decide to delay a decision until it receives transcripts from the newspaper later this week. John Maxse, the Jockey Club's public relations director, said: "[One of] the areas in which he [Fallon] could be in breach of the rules are passing on privileged information in return for financial rewards, gifts or benefits in kind."
Responding to the allegations, Fallon's lawyer told the newspaper that his client had merely offered advice to people whom the jockey had been led to believe were members of the public. He said: "He received no money for this and the way he rode the horses was in no way influenced by the information he had imparted."
The alleged Lingfield incident has underlined concerns among regulators about the potential abuses of betting on losers since the emergence five years ago of internet-based betting "exchanges", which allow ordinary punters to set the odds.
The Jockey Club has had to deal with betting scandals since its was formed 200 years ago.