For nearly two months, the volcano in Harry Findlay had been simmering dangerously. Yesterday, amid the sunlit gaiety of Ladies' Day here, the top finally blew. Planting himself squarely in the path of Nic Coward, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, Findlay gave furious public vent to the resentment he has been nursing since a disciplinary trauma suddenly turned his fairy-tale adventures on the Turf into a raging nightmare.
It was a remarkable scene, one that seemed to have instant resonance in the long and colourful history of Town Moor. A small, curious crowd gathered as Findlay kept up a 10-minute tirade between the parade ring and the weighing room, where Coward eventually sought sanctuary. No doubt many witnesses were puzzled, to see this big, emotional extrovert furiously jabbing his finger at some grey, slight bureaucrat. But nor could the background be easily condensed.
Some, perhaps, will have recognised Findlay as the outspoken professional gambler whose oddball partnership with Paul Barber had created a groundswell of public interest in Denman, the champion steeplechaser trained by Paul Nicholls. Earlier this year, the BHA stunned Findlay with a six-month suspension for what was widely perceived as a technical breach of the rules prohibiting owners from laying their own horses. Findlay had simply "hedged" bigger wagers on Betfair, the betting exchange, and remained a substantial net backer of his horse. He promptly won an appeal, but he had already decided to dissolve his partnership with Barber, and left the Nicholls yard. His sense of grievance has not diminished in the meantime.
He believes himself the subject of calculated persecution and wants Coward and Paul Roy, the BHA chairman, to resign from their posts. It is safe to assume that Coward was familiar with Findlay's stance and has denied any lying or unfairness by the BHA, emphasising that Findlay has been dealt with properly and impartially, as his successful appeal would seem to confirm, but he seemed taken aback by this sudden, vehement confrontation.
As Coward walked away, Findlay turned to the press and punters and passionately elaborated his theme. "They've lied about me, it's been a set-up and a vendetta, and I've had enough," he said, the words pouring out in a torrent. "I can't enjoy anything. I've got my 19-year-old daughter there. All I wanted was for him to explain why they're trying to ruin our lives."
Findlay alleged that the BHA security department had "lied" to journalists, by claiming that he had been warned repeatedly not to lay horses in Nicholls' yard, which would contravene guidelines if not strictly the rules. He named two BHA investigators who had, he said, come to his house when the disciplinary investigation began. "We sat and laughed and joked," he said. "And they gave me permission to lay any other horses in the yards I've got. It was a 15-minute discussion, verified the next day by [Betfair's lawyer].
"Betfair have done nowhere near enough to stand by me. They know that I'm whiter than white, they know that I'm cleaner than clean. All they're worried about is going and selling their shares. That's why my left leg is shaking, that's why I'm a wreck. It's a miracle I'm still alive.
"No one else will stand up to [Paul Roy]. I'll be back tomorrow, and if Paul Roy walks into the paddock... They're liars, and I'm not. You can call me a big mouth, you can call me a loudmouth, you can call me fat, but you don't call me a liar... Let him ban me now. He's Coward by name and coward by nature."
Asked why these men should have a vendetta against him, Findlay says: "I wouldn't have a clue. I've got no money. Maybe it's charisma. Who knows what it is? But I'm telling you something now, they've picked on the wrong guy, because I've got balls as big as [racehorse owner] Paul Dixon's head."
Though trembling with anger, Findlay kept himself in check, and at no stage provoked the intervention of security staff. Coward was clearly shaken, even so. "If Harry has a point, Harry can make his point wherever he wishes to," he said afterwards. "But I deal with matters in the right way, and through the right process, and dealing with things on the racecourse in that manner is not right.
"You'll have to speak to Mr Findlay. He was dealt with through a disciplinary process in the right way, that has now come through a disciplinary panel and an appeal board. You have seen repeatedly what we have said on this matter, on the record. I asked Harry to respect that we are coming to Doncaster races on a great day, and now is not the time."
Findlay has made it plain that Roy cannot hope to escape a similar embarrassment should their paths cross. If he or Coward object to some of the other words used by Findlay, of course, they could in theory bring fresh charges against him, for bringing the sport into disrepute. In turn, however, that would scarcely discourage Findlay in the belief that this is a personal feud. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter, the lava is now in full flow.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Maxim Gorky (2.05 Doncaster) Has a superb pedigree and erased a couple of disappointments when hacking up at Newmarket the other day.
Willing Foe (4.55 Doncaster) Remains far less exposed than most of these following his decisive maiden success over course and distance.
One to watch
Man Of The Match (A Bailey) Had justified market strength in maidens and made a good start in nurseries when dropped in trip at Haydock last weekend, rallying for third and looking sure to relish a return to 7f.
Where the money's going
Picture Editor, a Dansili colt who made an impressive debut for Henry Cecil at Doncaster yesterday, was introduced at 25-1 for the Derby by William Hill.Reuse content