Racing: Jockey Club leap to the defence of turf's image

John Cobb
Monday 18 November 2013 02:51
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In the knowledge that several million people will last night have viewed a less than flattering picture of the sport that they govern, the Jockey Club yesterday embarked on limiting the damage likely to have been caused by the BBC programme Kenyon Confronts.

The documentary, in which the reporter Paul Kenyon pretends to be a prospective racehorse owner who wants to buy a horse to bring off a gamble, features footage from hidden cameras of three trainers, David Wintle, Jamie Osborne and Ferdy Murphy, who have all maintained that their remarks were misinterpreted and taken out of context.

The Jockey Club, who declined to appear on the programme, in which a statement from them is quoted, yesterday expressed their concern over how the public may interpret allegations in the documentary from an anonymous former bookmaker that every horse-race includes runners that are deliberately being raced to avoid winning and obtain a favourable handicap mark.

The Jockey Club's public-relations director, John Maxse, said: "We are concerned about how the public may view the sport in the light of the way in which Kenyon Confronts has attempted to portray it, and in particular the covert filming of conversations with trainers.

A statement from the Jockey Club stressed that, in co-operating with Kenyon Confronts, they provided responses to all questions asked, as well as camera-patrol footage of Seattle Alley, the horse bought by the programme, running at Warwick and Fontwell, which demonstrated that the riding of the horse was within the rules.

The Club's director of regulation, Malcolm Wallace, said: "In our response to Kenyon Confronts we made our commitment to protecting the punter very clear. Confidence in the integrity of the sport is vital and if the public are being deceived or defrauded action must be taken.

"Let there be no misunderstanding, if a horse is ridden with the intent of deceiving the public about its ability to achieve the best placing, an enquiry will be held and action taken against jockey and trainer.

"The programme makers claim that 'cheating' and 'race-fixing' is an everyday occurrence, yet provide no evidence of incidents of the Rules of Racing being broken and ignore the measures put in place by the Jockey Club to ensure races are fairly run.

"Of course, with over 80,000 runners a year it is possible for the occasional 'easy run' to slip through the net, but by and large, the racing and betting industry appears to be satisfied that the correct checks and balances are in place."

The betting exchange Betfair.com responded to claims in the programme that a trainer laid his horse to win £1,600 at a race at Fakenham in March. A statement read: "Betfair can confirm that the bet never took place, and has made that known to the producers of the programme prior to screening.

"The total amount laid on the horse in question was £419, with the largest bet placed being £52. As the horse was an 8-1 shot, the amount a layer would have had to have in account to place the bet alleged would have been £12,800. Betfair has passed on this – and other more detailed – information to the Jockey Club."

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