For those yesterday found guilty of the gravest charges in racing's latest corruption scandal, the sport will presumably reserve its unqualified disgust. For Paul Fitzsimons, however, exoneration can hardly undo the damage already done to his standing and morale. If the latter consideration must weigh heavily with the British Horseracing Authority, whenever it thinks it has grounds to impugn those whose livelihoods depend on their integrity, then those who do betray the sport must acknowledge their role in also blackening the reputation of their peers.
After an arduous process, for all concerned, four journeyman jockeys – Paul Doe, Greg Fairley, Kirsty Milczarek and Jimmy Quinn – were found to have conspired in a fraudulent association with two former owners, in connection with various races run in 2009. The BHA disciplinary panel also found Doe, Fairley and Milczarek in breach of the rule prohibiting the passing of inside information for reward or benefit.
Most grievous of all, however, is the finding that Doe, on two occasions, and Fairley, on one, intentionally ensured that mounts would not show their best. Fairley and Doe have already quit riding, and barely cooperated with the inquiry, neither attending the October hearing.
If these relative degrees of culpability are accepted, however, then Milczarek and especially Quinn will feel that they have at least cleared their names of the most damaging of the charges against them. It is understood that appeals remain likely.
But Fitzsimons will feel aggrieved that he was ever involved in the first place. Fitzsimons, who has quit the saddle since riding It's A Mans World at Lingfield in February 2009, has spent over six months with a cloud hanging over his new career as a trainer. All the riders had been charged with equal levels of malpractice, but Fitzsimons was yesterday absolved of any breaches.
Aside from instigating and coordinating a network between various jockeys and their own associates, Maurice "Fred" Sines and James Crickmore were found guilty of laying horses in their ownership. Five of six unlicensed individuals also charged were found to have had shared in a conspiracy. Paul Scotney, the BHA director of integrity services, stressed that Sines and Crickmore were the core miscreants, having set out to corrupt riders. He added that the scale and complexity of the case was "unprecedented" in the BHA's experience, and thanked the betting industry for its assistance.
Sines and Crickmore were warned off for 14 years. Doe and Fairley, having apparently ended their careers already, were each disqualified for 12. While Quinn is pondering a six-month suspension, Milczarek's solicitor confirmed she would definitely take her two-year ban to the appeal board. "We think the panel's reasoning is flawed," Christopher Stewart-Moore said. "We're going to be appealing, as Kirsty was not involved in any conspiracy of any kind."
Scotney said: "We take no pleasure in uncovering such serious breaches of the rules of racing. The case underlines that there is no room for complacency. The threat from those seeking to gain an advantage at betting, through the misuse of inside information, is ever present. The livelihoods of those in racing are at stake if they allow themselves to be corrupted by individuals. That includes not just those licensed or registered under the rules of racing but also those outside the sport who are prepared to go to great lengths to satisfy their greed. "
So far as Fitzsimons was concerned, however, Scotney was unrepentant. "It is our responsibility to identify potential wrongdoing and investigate it," he said. "In the course of this investigation it was established that all five licensed personnel had a case to answer in relation to specific races. It is then the role of the independent disciplinary panel to weigh up the strength of the evidence placed before them. As is explained in the findings, their conclusions are based on the balance of probabilities."
Andrew Chalk, his solicitor, said Fitzsimons was delighted that the case against him had been thrown out. "He did nothing wrong and was extremely disappointed when he was dragged into such a lengthy and complicated enquiry," he said. "It has been a considerable ordeal, throughout which Paul has conducted himself with great dignity. Paul leaves the BHA with his head held high. It's testament to him that he has been able to keep up the business of training with this massive distraction over the last year."
The sport's professionals and regulators – not to mention the police – have all had to learn the hard way about the changing betting landscape. Perhaps this case will be the final, heartbreaking lesson endured by a community that must surely now have a better sense of the pitfalls and paranoia that have proliferated since the advent of betting exchanges.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Valley View (2.50 Exeter) Impressive when winning on his chase debut last season but lost his way until last time out, at Towcester, under this rider.
Arrayan (1.20 Exeter) Improving fast until disappointing at Sandown in March and shaped well on his recent return, at the same track, not getting home over a much longer trip.
Where the money's going
Dynaste is 5-1 from 6-1 with Paddy Power to crown his improvement against Big Buck's in Ascot's Long Walk Hurdle on Saturday.