Racing: Charge dropped against Bradley

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GRAHAM BRADLEY, who two months ago was charged with conspiracy to cheat in connection with a two-horse race in 1996, is free to resume his career in the saddle after the charge was dropped yesterday. The Crown Prosecution Service admitted that there was "insufficient evidence to support a prosecution" of the jockey when he appeared to answer bail at Bow Street Magistrates Court.

Bradley said later that he intended to reapply for his riders' licence without delay. His licence was suspended by the Jockey Club in April when the Metropolitan Police decided to charge him over a steeplechase at Warwick in November 1996. In the race, Bradley rode Man Mood, who was pulled up at half-way, allowing his only rival to record a bloodless win.

Bradley was one of five jockeys arrested during a protracted investigation by the Met into allegations of doping and race-fixing. Jamie Osborne, Leighton Aspell, Ray Cochrane and Dean Gallagher were the others, but Bradley was the only one of the five to be charged with an offence.

Five other men, none of them licensed by the Jockey Club, also appeared at Bow Street yesterday, charged with conspiracy to defraud "by interfering with the fair running of horse races by administering a performance-inhibiting drug". All five were bailed to reappear in six weeks' time.

"It's just been very depressing and very frustrating and embarrassing," Bradley said yesterday. "I am just very happy my name has been totally cleared. I knew I had done absolutely nothing wrong. All I can do now is look forward and I'll be back fairly shortly, I'm doing lots of walking and bits of exercise and my weight is good. I'm really looking forward to getting back into the saddle."

Michael Caulfield, the general manager of the Jockeys' Association, questioned the role of the Jockey Club in the long-running investigation. "Now it has been recognised that he [Bradley] had no involvement, there will be interest in how and why it got to this stage," Caulfield said. "The pressure, not just on Bradley but also the other jockeys who have been involved in this, is immense. They've stood up to it incredibly well, and how they've got here in the first place we just don't know."

Jamie Osborne, who was himself arrested in January 1998 but released from the investigation a year later, said: "I always thought this day would come for him. The question that has to be asked is, why did the Crown Prosecution Service believe two months ago that there was sufficient evidence to bring a charge if they now say that there is insufficient evidence? If I was in Brad's position I would be extremely angry about that."

For the Jockey Club, Christopher Spence, the Senior Steward, defended the decision to suspend Bradley's licence pending the outcome of the case. "When the Stewards suspended Graham Bradley's licence it was stressed that no judgment was being made," he said. "At all times throughout these investigations, the Jockey Club has sought to uphold public confidence in racing and protect the integrity of the sport. Our security department will continue to be extremely vigilant, investigating any situation which might give the betting public cause for concern.

"I am sure people in racing realise that there are individuals on the fringes of the sport who may seek to corrupt racing. Hopefully, the events of the last 18 months will act as a deterrent against them succeeding."

John Maxse, the Club's press spokesman, was keen to emphasise that the decision to charge Bradley had been taken by the police, rather than by the racing authorities. However, yesterday's events will inevitably be seen to reflect poorly on the Club's security department, and in particular Roger Buffham, the man who runs it. After 30 months of arrests and bad publicity, and with no worthwhile charges brought against the jockeys who have been dragged into the headlines, many in racing will ask whether it was all worth it.

"This investigation has generated some adverse publicity," Maxse said, "and the last thing we want is for the sport we regulate to be damaged. But it is vital that allegations of malpractice are thoroughly investigated. The bigger picture, eventually, will show our actions throughout were aimed at protecting racing."