Following news that flat jockey Danny Brock will face a substantial ban from horse racing, after being found guilty of a betting conspiracy, we take a look at whether more can be done to combat this in the future, if at all.
The BHA (British Horseracing Authority), deemed that he had intentionally stopped three horses being part of a conspiracy to profit from having a bet on their races.
Involved were another five people, that also included the son and assistant of Philip McBride, the Newmarket trainer, Sean, with three races coming under scrutiny on all-weather tracks, between December 2018 and March 2019.
A couple of those races saw Brock get beaten while seated on Mochalov, with both of these the subject of multiple four-figure bets placed against the horse via Betfair, which swiftly aroused suspicion. Meanwhile, not long after this, Brock was beaten aboard Samovar, with a number of big bets placed on his opponent, Tricky Dicky.
While on Samovar, Brock was accused of seemingly foul-play which could have affected the result, as he was seen to be slow in removing the hood of the horse, before veering a number of strides to left, giving it a significant disadvantage. The panel subsequently decided: “..he (Brock) was a dozen lengths or more adrift and the race was lost, Mr Brock made no serious effort thereafter until giving Samovar a slight push a furlong from home.”
Other Cases Of Race-Fixing In Horse Racing
Over the years, there have been several incidents where cheating has occurred in horse racing, especially relating to betting.
In 2006, champion jockey, Keiren Fallon was hit with a number of charges into race fixing, following a two-year inquiry by the City of London police, being one of 11 people who were associated with this – the biggest case of its kind at the time.
Fallon, along with two other jockeys, Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams were charged with a conspiracy of defrauding Betfair customers, while ex-owner and racing syndicate director, Miles Rodgers also faced conspiracy to defraud charges, under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Head of the City economic crime division, Detective Chief Superintendent, Steve Wilmot revealed at the time: “The amount of work undertaken by the investigation team has been immense.
“During the course of the investigation we have arrested 34 people, conducted over 500 interviews; taken more than 1,300 statements and provided over 5,000 exhibits and nearly 40,000 pages of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service and counsel.”
The investigation saw detectives analyse wagering patterns on the Betfair platform that were released to the jockey club by the operator.
However, Fallon and his co-accused were ultimately cleared of all charges, with his legal team stating that the two-month trial, that amounted to £10 million had been a huge waste of tax-payers money.
Arguably one of the most outrageous and infamous cases occurred in 1974, when Irish millionaire and owner, Tony Murphy attempted to pull off a bait and switch, in order to influence odds prices.
He put arrangements in place for a horse, who he labelled ‘Gay Future’ to be brought to England to be trained by Anthony Collins. The horse was actually an imposter that looked a lot like the real ‘Gay Future’. Due to the ‘imposter’ not looking promising, it heavily decreased the odds, while just before the race, the real horse was transferred to England from Ireland to be switched in secret. In order to disguise the ploy, Murphy also entered two other horses trained by Collins, though in reality these would not actually run.
In order to deter punters from betting on the real ‘Gay Future’, the horse’s legs were covered in soap on the day so that he would appear sweaty and in poor shape. Despite this, the real ‘Gay Future’ won, with long odds. Both Murphy and Collins would have gotten away with this, had a reporter found out that the other horses had not travelled. The pair were convicted with attempted fraud, however, they did not serve time in prison.
Is There An Effective Way To Police Race-Fixing?
Of course, betting scandals happen in other sports, and it would appear that most are uncovered, due to an improvement in the technology and software that operator platforms have in place. This is designed to put red flags on potentially suspicious betting activity and look more into them, though, despite this, it may not be immediately detectable.
Where suspicion often arises is in the aftermath, when winnings are withdrawn, sometimes to accounts that perhaps look similar, or if there are people associated with the key protagonist who also appear to gain some kind of financial benefit, with this appearing too much of a coincidence and therefore prompting an investigation.
Although wide scale prevention may be hard to implement, in order to stop race-fixing from happening completely (before the event), the British Horseracing Authority, could look to implement more observatory measures that are focused on tracing the activity of jockeys, trainers and owners in the run-up to events, though, this perhaps is unrealistic.
Also, increasing the severity of punishments could be one way to try and stop race-fixing from occurring, which makes those affiliated with the sport think twice before engaging in such schemes.
There could then perhaps be investment into compulsory courses and seminars about the dangers of race-fixing as a way to try to combat this in the long-term, that highlights how sophisticated the sport is becoming in identifying this and that it is not worth the risk, with an emphasis that penalties are severe.
Ultimately, race-fixing may never be totally eradicated from the sport, though policing this activity may become a lot more efficient. There may always be those who get away with it, if they come up with more creative ways to escape detection, though the authorities need to implement measures that suggest that the risks far outweigh the potential rewards. As a result, this is likely to make people become a lot more cautious.