Racing: Down denies writing `humbug'

ALASTAIR DOWN, writer of The Sporting Life article at the centre of a libel action, clashed in the High Court yesterday with counsel representing racehorse trainer Lynda Ramsden, her husband Jack and champion jockey Kieren Fallon.

Down was giving evidence on the 12th day of the case in which the Ramsdens and Fallon are seeking damages over allegations in the Life that they had cheated the racing public. They claim that they were the victims of a "savage verbal onslaught''.

Mirror Group, publishers of the Life, maintain the article was true in substance, fact or fair comment on a matter of public interest.

Down, associate editor of the paper and author of the article headlined: "Contempt for the punter", said people on the racecourse and in betting shops had been furious about the run by the Ramsden-trained Top Cees in the Swaffham Handicap at Newmarket prior to the horse going on to win the 1995 Chester Cup three weeks later.

Richard Hartley QC, for the Life, asked Down: ``What did you think of Kieren Fallon's riding?''

Down: ``I thought the horse was not off.''

Hartley: ``Meaning?''

Down: ``Meaning he did not try.''

Cross-examined by Patrick Milmo QC, for the plaintiffs, Down rejected allegations that his opinions and those of the Life were "humbug''. He stood by every word he had written.

Down explained that he had been present at Newmarket for the Swaffham, watching the race on a television monitor in the press room. Journalist colleagues had questioned the riding of Top Cees by Fallon, maintaining that the 5-1 favourite had not been ridden to its full potential - although a stewards' inquiry accepted an explanation from the trainer and the jockey that Top Cees had been held up for a late run but then failed to get a gap through which to challenge.

On the day of the Chester Cup, Down said he had been in the Life offices and had watched the race with the paper's editor, Tom Clarke, and three or four other colleagues.

Looking at the Chester run, compared with Fallon's riding at Newmarket, he saw them as completely different. At Chester there had been more "aggression'' and more effort to get around horses in front.

Down said: "Fallon was great, and eager to want to get the best ride out of his horse. He is a cracking jockey. We were fully cognisant of what grave allegations the paper was making. I thought the way the horse had been run at Newmarket and in the Chester Cup meant that in a sense the racing public had had their noses rubbed in it."

He saw one of the most parts of his job as being looking after the interests of punters who had no other voice in racing.

Down was asked by Milmo about the National Union of Journalists' code of conduct, which warned against the dangers of presenting comment and conjecture as established fact. Down denied doing this and added: "It gave me no pleasure to write it." He admitted that he had been wrong to include words suggesting that the Chester racecourse switchboard had been jammed with calls complaining about the Cup result.

This information had been passed on to him by a Life reporter on the spot, Geoff Lester, who had said he had been given the information by track officials.

There was no question of the Life accusing Jack Ramsden, a well known gambler, of completing some sort of coup thanks to Top Cees' victory. But Down told the court that Ramsden had tried on occasion to outflank the racing authorities and exploit the system.

Earlier in the case Mr Ramsden had admitted making pounds 100,000 in his best gambling year. Down said: "In that case he would have been pounds 102,000 ahead of me."

Milmo declared that the leading article was "pure humbug'' and referred Down to an article he had written in the Sporting Life's Weekender about the victory of Old Red in the 1995 Cesarewitch at Newmarket, where Top Cees came third.

Down had pointed out that Old Red, trained by Mrs Mary Reveley, had been subject to previous stewards' inquiries when the horse had run "with all the success of a veal butcher at a vegan food festival".

Milmo said: "You were just writing for style." Down replied that it was untrue. There was no comparison between Top Cees and Old Red. Mrs Reveley had broken no rule and achieved a notable training success.

The hearing continues today.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket