Racing: Smith Eccles in clear

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The Independent Online
THE Jockey Club has decided that Steve Smith Eccles should not be censured for his 'revelations' in a Sunday newspaper concerning corruption in racing. The initial response from racing's rulemakers had been that unless the experienced jump jockey could substantiate his claims, he would be open to the punishable charge of bringing racing into disrepute, writes John Cobb.

After sending its head of security, Roger Buffham, to interview Smith Eccles on Tuesday, the club yesterday issued a statement saying that it 'noted the regret expressed by Smith Eccles and his account of how the article came to be written'.

'It is recognised that much of the material related to incidents that may have happened in the past,' the statement said.

Saying sorry seems to have satisfied the authorities and Smith Eccles has been absolved. In truth, though, his tales of corruption amounted to little more than most followers of racing have long known.

Smith Eccles spoke of riding horses which he believed had been doped, but no positive drug tests had confirmed his suspicions about animals which could quite simply have had an off-day. He told of an anonymous phone call offering him money to throw a race, but the only surprise there is that it should have happened only once in his 19- year career.

Similarly, in a sport in which ready cash is so prevalent, the disclosure that jockeys break the rules by asking friends to place bets for them is hardly startling.

His account of how a ring of Northern-based jockeys used to fix races between them was widely suspected when the incidents occurred in the Seventies, but have, on his own admission, been eliminated by more vigilant security.