Fallon employed 'extreme tactics' expert tells court

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The Independent Online

A leading Australian racing official yesterday told the court of his disquiet over Kieren Fallon's tactics in another four races – including two that he won. Ray Murrihy, giving evidence to the race-fixing trial for a second day, talked the jury through the final nine of 27 horses under review, including six ridden by the six-times champion jockey.

The chief steward of New South Wales claimed that officials there would have held an inquiry into Fallon's riding on both Barking Mad and Beauvrai, who won on consecutive days in August 2004, at Windsor and Yarmouth respectively.

Murrihy considered his performance on Beauvrai, odds-on favourite for a claiming race, to be "quite remarkable in a number of aspects". Analysing video footage from a variety of angles, he said that Australian stewards would have asked why Fallon removed the horse's blindfold late, in the process missing the break, and why he persisted in seeking cover behind various of his four rivals.

Fallon had seemed to choose "the one position on the track where his mount could not go forward", before finally sending Beauvrai past using "the minimum of vigour".

In one judgement, Murrihy granted, it might be described as "a ride of extreme coolness". Regardless, he added: "It was an extreme tactic that I'd suggest, in the jurisdictions I've worked, you'd be asking why he rode the horse so extremely."

On Barking Mad, conversely, Fallon was seen to make all the running and win cosily. But Murrihy would still have asked Fallon why he kept looking over his shoulder, easing up in the final furlong and a half. "That's not something that's condoned in Australia," he said. "The rider should be pushing his mount out. The intensity of his ride lessens... That's not a practice we encourage."

The two other Fallon rides that concerned Murrihy were in the same month, on Lost Soldier Three at Newbury, and Goodwood Spirit at Goodwood.

The jury watched Lost Soldier Three finishing well from the rear for second, beaten three-quarters of a length. Murrihy recognised that Fallon had a wall of horses before him, but suggested that "at all stages in the straight there was an opportunity to come inside". He described the rail "as an obvious alternative that wasn't taken". On Goodwood Spirit – who also came home well, finishing third of nine in a sprint maiden – Murrihy accepted that Fallon had no opportunity to improve his position at a vital stage.

But earlier in the race he had covered up his mount behind the bulk of the field, a tactic that "would prompt some questions in an Australian situation".

Murrihy had no objection to either of Fallon's other rides. The three remaining horses were all ridden by Fergal Lynch at Ripon on August 31, 2004.

Two caused Murrihy no concern – including Familiar Affair, who won after setting the pace – but he suggested that Lynch had declined "a narrow gap" before switching and finishing second on Bond City. He accepted later that the existence of this gap was marginal. Lynch and Fallon are among six men accused of conspiracy to defraud customers of the online betting exchange, Betfair. The others include a third jockey, Darren Williams, and Miles Rodgers, a professional gambler described as orchestrator of the plot. All deny the charges against them.

The first defence counsel to challenge the witness was George Carter-Stephenson QC, representing Lynch. Though Murrihy admitted that he was opposed to Betfair's expansion into Australia, he denied that his evidence had been in any way coloured.

He had studied the race videos without an agenda. "I certainly had no 'riding instructions' to find fault," Murrihy said. "Nor would I accept those instructions."

Reviewing the video evidence, Carter-Stephenson and Murrihy had some heated differences. Analysing his ride on South Atlantic, at Thirsk in May 2003, Carter-Stephenson suggested that Lynch was hemmed in by a horse directly alongside.

Murrihy demurred, arguing that the horse in question was a length and a half in front. Nor would he accept Carter-Stephenson's claim that Lynch had removed the blindfold from Kristikhab, at Carlisle in July 2004, as the stalls were opening. He insisted that the other horses were already jumping before the hood came off. Carter-Stephenson also showed the jury footage of Kristikhab racing at Carlisle later that year, where he missed the break by several lengths.

The case continues.