Racing: Serious charges confront Bradley

Graham Bradley, the self-proclaimed "wayward lad" of the turf, will have his claim to that title thoroughly tested over the next three days when he appears before the Jockey Club to face a series of serious charges.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey of 1983, now a successful bloodstock agent, will be questioned over his self-confessed passing of privileged information and over his relationship with Brian Wright, who is wanted by police on suspicion of drugs smuggling.

Bradley was among a list of those named by the Jockey Club in June who will be the subject of disciplinary hearings following revelations in court that a cocaine-smuggling gang had infiltrated racing.

The former jockey will be asked to explain his comments during a trial at Southampton Crown Court in which his friend and former weighing-room colleague Barrie Wright was acquitted of charges of conspiracy to import cocaine. Bradley admitted in court that he and Wright regularly passed on "privileged and sensitive information" to Brian Wright (no relation) for money and rewards.

The questions posed of Bradley will include whether he gave information about horses in races in return for cash and whether he received proceeds from bets or received presents in connection with races from anyone other than the owner for whom he had ridden.

The chapter "The Man Called Uncle" from Bradley's autobiography The Wayward Lad, will also be considered. In the book Bradley alludes to conspiring with Brian Wright and others to bring about the unwarranted abandonment of the 1987 Cheltenham Gold Cup in the interests of bets.

Bradley will also be questioned over information he gave the Jockey Club's licensing committee in 1999 with regard to his relationship with Brian Wright. And finally, if he is still standing after all those charges have been thrown at him, Bradley will also be accused of the seemingly less serious offence of entering the weighing room without special leave of the stewards on three occasions between November last year and January this year.

There are problems of a different kind at Epsom racecourse, but they are of sufficient seriousness to alter the complexion of the Derby forever. Concerns over the safety of runners and riders over the idiosyncratic, switchback track has led to a drastic reduction in the size of the maximum field for the Classic, and indeed all longer-distance races at the track, from 30 to 20.

Although there has not been a Derby field that exceeded 20 since Erhaab beat 24 rivals in 1994, that was also the race in which Foyer, ridden by Willie Ryan, was brought down in scrimmaging around Tattenham Corner.

It is a reflection of the declining attraction of the Derby that very large fields are no longer common and Andrew Cooper, the director of racing at United Racecourses, said: "The trends do not suggest that we could expect to have more than 20 runners anyway. We are not getting the no-hopers we sometimes used to get that made up the numbers.

"It is not a decision that we have taken lightly but I honestly do not think we will have to turn away any good horses. If there are more than 20 declared runners then horses will be balloted out by their handicap rating."

Cooper explained that a fatality at Epsom's last meeting of the year had encouraged officials to make a firm decision. "In September there was a 23-runner handicap over a mile and a half – the last race of the whole season at Epsom – and a horse called Shuwaib was killed in a fall. It was then that I really made my mind up and the Jockey Club course inspectors agree with us."

The betting for Saturday's big race, the Hennessy Gold Cup, started to warm up yesterday when Ad Hoc was the subject of a sustained gamble even though he is not yet a definite runner. Coral cut his price to 12-1 from 16-1, as did the Tote from 20-1, while he is 10-1 from 14-1 with William Hill.

"Today's gamble is not only a clear sign that Ad Hoc is likely to run on Saturday, it also suggests that he is fancied to run a very big race," Simon Clare, Coral's spokesman, said.

However, no decision has been made on whether the eight-year-old, trained by Paul Nicholls, takes his chance in the £105,000 chase at Newbury, with the weather the determining factor. "The forecast is for up to 60 millimetres of rain," Barry Simpson, racing manager to Ad Hoc's owner, Sir Robert Ogden, said. Ogden also has the Nicky Henderson-trained Marlborough in the race.

"I'm waiting for Nicky to see what he is going to do with his other runner, Bacchanal. As for Ad Hoc, the Hennessy was not in our plans but that does not mean he won't run."

HENNESSY GOLD CUP (Newbury, Saturday): Coral: 7-1 Bounce Back, Harbour Pilot, 8-1 Hussard Collonges, 9-1 Stormez, 10-1 Frosty Canyon, Gola Cher, 12-1 Gingembre, Ad Hoc, Gunther McBride, Iznogoud, 14-1 others. William Hill: 7-1 Bounce Back, 8-1 Harbour Pilot, 9-1 Frosty Canyon, Hussard Collonges, 10-1 Ad Hoc, Gingembre, Gola Cher, Gunther McBride, 14-1 others. Tote: 7-1 Harbour Pilot, 8-1 Bounce Back, 9-1 Hussard Collonges, 10-1 Frosty Canyon, Gola Cher, 12-1 Ad Hoc, Direct Access, Gunther McBride, Iznogoud, Stormez, 14-1 Gingembre, 16-1 Be My Royal, Give Over, Takagi, 20-1 others.

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