Kieren Fallon placed the information he offered to a fellow defendant in the race-fixing trial on a par with the tips sought daily by Michael Owen, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.
The England striker's name came up in the transcript of a police interview, during June 2006, which was read to the jury. Fallon told a detective that he was routinely asked for his opinions by many different people, including Owen.
The six-times champion jockey is one of six men charged with conspiracy to defraud the online betting exchange Betfair. Fallon and two other jockeys, Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams, are accused of riding horses to protect bets laid by Miles Rodgers, a professional gambler. No contact between Fallon and Rodgers has been suggested by the prosecution, who instead allege that the two other defendants, Philip Sherkle and Shaun Lynch, acted as intermediary at various times. All the defendants deny the charges.
Fallon told police that he knew Sherkle, socially, but had no idea his opinions might be passed on to a stranger. In texting Sherkle, Fallon thought that "he was having his own couple of quid on whatever, or if I didn't fancy one he'd back something else in the race".
And he emphasised that there was nothing sinister or unusual about this practice. "I do that all the time, with a lot of people, not just Phil," he said. "Michael Owen every day texts me."
This apparent reference is by no means the footballer's debut on the racing pages. During the summer he opened a training stable in Cheshire, supervised by Nicky Vaughan, who is brother-in-law of the former England player, David Platt. They have had three winners so far.
Throughout his interviews, Fallon rejected suggestions that he was involved in some kind of conspiracy. "There's no agreement at all," he told a detective. "I didn't know Miles Rodgers, I never met the guy. I didn't even know him. I ended up in a car once because of... Shaun and a friend who needed a lift to the airport."
The jury has already heard testimony from two other jockeys, Seb Sanders and Darryll Holland, that Rodgers had once given them and Fallon a lift from Leicester racecourse to a nearby airfield.
Asked about text messages in which he had applied the letter "*" to certain horses, Fallon said: "I don't know what '*' meant – whether he's no good, or I didn't fancy him... obviously one or the other."
Quizzed about his winning ride on Beauvrai, at Yarmouth in August 2004, Fallon laughed at the suggestion that he might have removed the horse's hood late in an attempt to throw the race. "No, it doesn't work like that," he said. "You're not going to lose races by leaving the blind on." Recalling that Beauvrai was "dangerous in the gate", Fallon thought that he had given a difficult horse a good ride.
In all, Fallon won on five of the 17 horses he is alleged to have ridden on behalf of the conspiracy. His counsel, John Kelsey-Fry QC, asked Matthew Hussey, a detective with City of London Police, to confirm some of the other theories put to Fallon during a series of interviews: for instance, that he had changed his mind about throwing a race because the profile of the horse's owner or trainer was too high; that other horses had been "too rubbish" for him to be able to stop his own mount; and even, in one case, that none of the other jockeys had been trying "hard enough" to catch him.
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