'Top jockeys took lift from professional gambler', court told

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The Independent Online

Championship-chasing rider Seb Sanders appear-ed at the Old Bailey yesterday to describe a lift he was given to an airport. The prosecution say he and fellow jockeys Kieren Fallon and Darryll Holland were taken to Leicester airport by professional gambler Miles Rodgers.

Rodgers, Fallon and four other men are accused of plotting to win bets by attempting to stop 27 horses winning.

But Sanders told the court he was never introduced to the other two men in the car during the 10-minute ride. "None of us spoke. As far as I was concerned, it was just a lift to the air-strip and that was the end of it," said Sanders.

They had "commandeered a lift" after a taxi failed to turn up to take them to the airport after the last race at Leicester in May 2004. He added: "I have taken lifts like this before and thought nothing of it other than it was an enthusiastic racegoer."

Sanders said his recollection of the incident was not clear. He told the court he sometimes played golf with six-times champion Fallon.

Questioned by John Kelsey-Fry, QC, for Fallon, Sanders confirmed he was battling to be this year's champion jockey and was four wins ahead of his nearest rival.

Before leaving the court, the judge Mr Justice Forbes, said: "I wish you every possible success in the championship this year." But there was an embarrassing moment when the judge appeared to forget his name and was prompted by the court clerk. The judge explained he had confused the jockey's surname and Christian name.

Police constable Paul Starr then told the court he had seen Rodgers and another jockey, Fergal Lynch, on a plane to Spain in August, 2004. On arrival at Malaga airport, PC Starr said he overheard Rodgers telling Lynch: "When you meet the big man, play up to him."

Jockeys Kieren Fallon, 42, formerly of Newmarket, Cambridgeshire, but now of Tipperary, Ireland; Fergal Lynch, 29, of Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire; and Darren Williams, 29, of Leyburn, North Yorkshire, deny being involved in a conspiracy between December 2002 and August 2004.

Shaun Lynch, 38, of Belfast; Miles Rodgers, 38, of Silkstone, South Yorkshire; and Philip Sherkle, 42, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, also plead not guilty.

Rodgers also denies concealing the proceeds of crime. The trial continues today.