Trainer Karl Burke was yesterday warned off for a year, following a drawn-out enquiry by the sport's regulators into so-called race-fixing. The announcement finally draws a line under the murky affair that has so dented racing's image, even if it is at this stage a slightly dotted one, as Burke may lodge an appeal against the length of his sentence.
The British Horseracing Authority launched its own investigation after reviewing evidence from the infamous collapsed Old Bailey trial in 2007, when jockeys Kieren Fallon, Darren Williams and Fergal Lynch, plus former owner Miles Rodgers, were acquitted of any wrongdoing. Burke had been arrested as part of the police investigation, but later released.
But though he faced no criminal charges, the Yorkshire-based handler was accused of breaking the rules, as were Williams, Lynch and Rodgers. Notable among the allegations were that he supplied inside information about runners to Rodgers, associated with him at a time when Rodgers was serving a two-year disqualification for laying his own horses, and misled BHA investigators.
As recently as May this year, Burke, 46, denied all charges with one minor exception before changing his position and holding his hands up. Key to the BHA's case was a large number of phone calls between him and Rodgers in the weeks after the latter's first warning-off, and the existence of a secret mobile number used for further communication between the pair.
Ironically, Burke, a former jockey who has held a licence since 1990 and whose training career has blossomed since his move to Spigot Lodge in Middleham nine years ago, is having his best-ever season. Earlier this month he notched his first Group 1 winner when Lord Shanakill won the Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly.
Burke's disqualification – which means he is not allowed on any premises licenced by the BHA, including racecourses and his own training yard – is not scheduled to start until today week, to allow the trainer time to lodge any appeal.
Last night Burke, who has 90 horses in his care and employs a staff of 35, declined to comment. "We'll make a statement after I've talked to my QC and solicitors," he said.
Lynch, Williams and Burke faced BHA charges concerning their relationships with Rodgers – who, it was confirmed yesterday, is now warned off for life – and the supplying of inside information over 12 races in 2004. Five of the horses under scrutiny were trained by Burke.
At a hearing in June, the two jockeys admitted the charges, with Lynch also owning up to betting via Rodgers and stopping a horse from running on its merits. Williams was banned for three months while Lynch, who is now based in America, paid a £50,000 fine and agreed not to apply for a British licence for 12 months. It emerged late last night that the Pennsylvania track Philadelphia Park had ejected Lynch for a year.
The BHA disciplinary panel, chaired by QC Tim Charlton, heard Burke's case earlier this month and took the view that the trainer's breaches were "calculated and considered".
The panel's damning statement yesterday continued: "After Rodgers was warned off in 2004, Burke and he were in contact by phone on 208 occasions in the following weeks. Some calls, on matters unrelated to horseracing, were unobjectionable but the sheer volume of traffic and the concentration of this around the times of the suspect races provided clear evidence of the breaches belatedly admitted by Burke.
"The Panel was particularly struck by the fact that Burke went to the trouble of getting a new mobile phone number which he began to use in early June 2004 to conduct his exchanges with Rodgers. This was not disclosed; its purpose was to try to conceal the contacts from any later investigation, an attempt which Burke continued to make right up until the day of the enquiry by denying that the phone number was his."
Regarding Rodgers, the disciplinary panel's comment was that his was "an obvious case for an indefinite exclusion order: he has wreaked havoc with the sport."
Fallon faced no further charges concerning race-fixing from the racing authorities after the collapse of the Old Bailey trial and is due to return to the saddle in September after serving an unrelated ban for drugs offences.
Turf account: Sue Montgomery
Eightdaysaweek (8.50 Southwell) Proven on the surface; her last run on turf, when there were problems with her tack, can be ignored. Her pedigree (by Montjeu out of a Darshaan mare) suggests the step up in trip will not be a problem.
Silver Prelude (5.15 Yarmouth) Returns to the scene of an easy success last week and looks to be holding his form.
One to watch
Chocolate (Richard Hannon) missed the break and met trouble in running when eighth to her more experienced stablemate Monsieur Chevalier in Saturday's Super Sprint at Newbury. She was doing her best work at the finish and can get off the mark back at six furlongs.
Where the money's going
Conduit, one of three intended Sir Michael Stoute runners in Saturday's King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, has hardened to 7-4 favourite with Totesport in the expectation that he will be stable jockey Ryan Moore's pick.
Chris McGrath's nap
Arctic Shadow (6.30 Bangor)