Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Race-fixing trial gets under way

HORSE OF ANOTHER COLOR Kieren Fallon, who won Europe's richest horse race on Sunday, stands accused of conspiring to lose races over a period of two years

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

On Sunday afternoon, the six-time champion jockey Kieren Fallon romped home to a euphoric victory in Europe's richest horse race, the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe.

On Monday morning, wearing a dark suit and looking pale, the 42-year-old Irishman mounted the steps up to the dock in court 12 at the Old Bailey criminal court in London to face charges of race-fixing that could undermine the integrity of the sport.

Fallon and two other jockeys -- Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams -- are accused of conspiring to lose a total of 27 flat races over two years. The alleged plot involved three others, including Miles Rodgers, a professional gambler from South Yorkshire, who placed a total of ?2.12 million (US$4.32 million) on those races between December 2002 and August 2004.

The "lay" bets -- wagers that a horse would lose -- were made on a leading Internet betting exchange called Betfair. But it was because such colossal sums -- frequently more than ?100,000 -- were placed to win smaller amounts that suspicions were aroused.

"There was an unlawful agreement or conspiracy between these defendants, and other persons not known, that those races should be fixed," Jonathan Caplan, for the prosecution, told the jury.

Miles Rodgers, who had been disqualified by the Jockey Club for two years, was the "organizer of the conspiracy," he said. "On race days Mr Rodgers had direct contact by mobile telephone with Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams. Kieren Fallon was more cautious and Rodgers had indirect contact with Mr Fallon using as an intermediary, Shaun Lynch ... and latterly Philip Sherkle."

Fallon, the shortest of the six in the dock, leaned forward intermittently to hear court exchanges, like an eager rider pitched forward in the saddle. He heard Caplan describe him as "one of the leading jockeys in the world."

Fergal Lynch rode in six of the 27 suspect races, the court heard. He won only once and earned the alleged conspirators ?5,000 profit. Darren Williams rode four suspect races and lost every one, gathering ?55,000 in winnings.

Kieren Fallon rode in 17 races. He lost 12 of them but won five -- making a net loss for the "conspirators" of ?338,000.

"It is important to remember," Caplan said, "that Rodgers at that time was working with Fergal Lynch and Fallon to get the conspiracy back into profit by concentrating on their rides in handicap races."

Williams was alleged to have been given envelopes stuffed with cash for his part in the plot. There is no evidence that Fallon received "any money or benefit from Rodgers," but the prosecution believe that was because at that stage he had cost the "conspirators" money.

"The inference to be drawn," Caplan added, "is that he was clearly involved for reward."

The scheme was not foolproof because jockeys "could not always stop the horse ... if it would look too obvious," the court was told. "A horse race is a dynamic event and anything can happen but the plan worked most of the time."

The "most common method of interference" would be to ensure the horse "does not run on its merits." One example would be for a jockey to deliberately ride into "a wall of other horses." The rider could also miss the start by delaying taking off the horse's hood, "fail to ride vigorously" or "slow the intensity of his efforts."

Fallon, the court was told, often discussed the prospects of his rides with Fergal and Shaun Lynch but his position was that he was "completely unaware" that they passed this information on to Rodgers. He also passed on tips to Sherkle because he thought he was putting "his own couple of quid" on them.

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