Disciplinary Panel reasons regarding Graham Bradley and Brendan Powell

09 Dec 2014 Disciplinary Panel - Integrity Issues

1.        Between 20 and 22 October 2014, the Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) held an inquiry into the allegation that Graham Bradley had acted as an unlicensed trainer from October 2012 until May 2014 with the assistance of Brendan Powell snr, who does have a trainer’s licence. Having considered the evidence and arguments put before it by the parties, the Panel announced on 28 October that it did not find the cases against them to be proved. The reasons for this decision are given below.

2.       The Rule breaches are said to have happened in respect of 12 horses that ran both on the flat and over jumps between October 2012 and May 2014. They ran in a total of 116 races, achieving 19 wins. The horses are identified in the attachment to these reasons, and are referred to below (for convenience only) as “the Bradley horses”.

3.       The structure of the case made by the BHA and presented on their behalf by Graeme McPherson QC was this :-

(i) Bradley was accused of breach of Rules (A)14 and/or (C)1. These provide –

“(A)14.1 A Person in Great Britain may not train a horse which runs in a race under these Rules unless

14.1.1 he holds a trainer’s licence or a trainer’s permit granted by the Authority in accordance with the Trainer Manual (C)”

“(C)1.1 Part (A)3 prohibited any Person in Great Britain from training horses to run under these Rules unless

1.1.1 he holds a trainer’s licence or a trainer’s permit granted by the Authority….”

(ii) He was further said to be in breach of Rule (A)30: by training without a licence or by running the Bradley horses, he was alleged to have acted “in a manner which the Authority considers prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing…”

(iii) Thirdly, he was alleged to be in breach of Rule (A)37 because he “assisted, encouraged or caused” Powell to act in breach of Rule (A)30 (the prejudicial conduct Rule referred to above).

(iv) Powell faced the allegation that he was in breach of Rule (A)37 by “assisting encouraging or causing” Bradley to act in breach of Rules (A)14/(C)1 or to act in breach of Rule (A)30.

(v) The second charge faced by Powell was that he was himself in breach of Rule (A)30.

4.       Bradley represented himself at the hearing; Powell was defended by Rory Mac Neice.

Background

5.       After October 2009, when his disqualification came to an end, Bradley felt that his bloodstock business was not doing as well as he hoped. He eventually decided to seek to get back into work in the racing industry. In August 2011, he took a job as a part-time unpaid work rider for Barry Brennan in Lambourn. That came to an end in March 2012.

6.       On 19 March 2012, he moved to the yard of Seamus Durack, and was registered on Durack’s Stable Employees Register (SER) as a part-time unpaid work rider. Durack’s yard was in a fenced off portion of the premises occupied by Powell. Bradley brought with him a number of horses which were registered as going into training with Durack. The BHA soon became concerned about the extent of Bradley’s involvement in Durack’s training operation, and on 26 July 2012, they carried out an unannounced inspection at his yard. This was followed shortly afterwards by Durack’s move to different premises in Lambourn, and he told Bradley that he could not come along and bring his horses to the new yard.

7.       Bradley therefore asked Powell whether he might be allowed to keep the Bradley horses at Powell’s yard, Newlands Stables, which was now restored to its previous size following Durack’s move. Powell agreed. He thought that the arrangement would be short term, because he understood that Bradley was intending to apply for a training licence. On 29 October 2012, Bradley was registered on Powell’s SER as a full-time unpaid employee. A few days after this, Bradley wrote to the BHA asking whether there was any reason why he should not apply for a trainer’s licence. After a chasing letter in December 2012, he received a reply in January 2013 which indicated that the BHA wished to have a meeting with him. This meeting took place in March 2013, but the Panel is unaware of the detail of what transpired. During the early months of that same year, Bradley completed his training modules. Thereafter, he put together an application for a training licence, which he sent to the BHA on 24 May 2013.

8.       On 25 July 2013, an unannounced inspection of Newlands Stables was conducted by the BHA. Its purpose was to establish the involvement of Bradley in the training of horses there. Following this, interviews were conducted with Bradley and Powell and documents were requested from them. Further investigations were carried out, and these eventually led to the allegations of breach of the Rules of Racing with which this inquiry is concerned.

The Panel’s approach to the relevant Rules of Racing

9.       As this seems to be the first occasion when allegations of breach of Rules (A)14 and (C)1 have had to be considered, it is necessary for the Panel to set out its understanding of these provisions.

10.     The reliance upon Rule (C)1 can be swiftly disposed of. This creates no obligations to be met by anybody. It merely declares what is believed to be the effect of the Rules in Part (A)3, among which is Rule (A)14.

11.     Rule (A)14.1.1 appears simple enough. (The other parts of Rule (A)14 are not relevant for this inquiry; they deal with foreign trained horses and training for hunter chases). Only horses trained by a licensed trainer or permit holder can run in races held under Rules.

12.     It is important to note that the Rule does not seek to declare that only licensed trainers can train horses. That of course would be an overreach. Many people will and can train and prepare racehorses without a licence, such as pre-training yards and individual owners. Such horses cannot run in races, however, unless they are trained at that time by a licence holder. Furthermore, such horses must have been in the care of and trained by a licensed trainer for at least 14 days before a race, as Schedule (B)3, paragraphs 22 and 23 stipulate.

13.     There is no compendious statement within the Rules of what constitutes “training”. There are detailed provisions within the Trainer Manual (C) of the Rules which set out the duties of a trainer. The most basic of these are his duty to conduct training with reasonable skill and care (Rule (C)22), to take all reasonable steps to ensure the welfare of horses in his care or control Rule (C)27), and to give necessary instructions to jockeys to ensure that horses run on their merits (Rule (C)45). And there is a whole raft of other detailed requirements, many of them concerning a trainer’s liability in the case of a positive sample test. These provisions provide only a partial guidance when considering what does or does not constitute “training”.

14.     Ultimately, the ingredients of “training” emerged in the inquiry in a commonsense way – they included the financial arrangements between owner and trainer, the day-to-day care of horses, the exercise and work regime, race selection and entry, jockey selection and instructions.

15.     It was not suggested by either side during the inquiry that any particular matter or activity demonstrated, one way or the other, that Bradley was training the Bradley horses or that Powell was not. That seemed the correct approach to this Panel. Thus, it could not be argued (and was not) by Bradley or Powell that, because the Bradley horses were entered for races by Powell and raced under his name as trainer so that he would have personal responsibility if one of them gave a positive sample or was found to be a non-trier, then this settled the debate. Likewise, the BHA did not argue (again correctly) that for instance the unusual financial arrangements for the Bradley horses concluded the argument. What matters is forming an overall judgement from all the evidence.

16.     It was the BHA’s case (developed both in its written Case Summary and when opening the inquiry) that Bradley, not Powell, was the trainer of the Bradley horses. The response to that by Bradley and Powell was to assert the contrary and a number of witnesses were called by Bradley – mostly people who worked at the stables. However, in closing submissions, Mr McPherson QC for the BHA raised an alternative argument. This was to the effect that, even if the Panel concluded that Powell was to be viewed as a trainer of the Bradley horses, Bradley should equally be seen as their trainer also. Mr Mac Neice’s response was that the horses could in principle have only one trainer, and that was in fact Powell. Though this argument was a late arrival, the Panel nevertheless felt it was open in principle on the facts and on the wording of Rule (A)14. Thus, a conclusion that Powell was the trainer was not the end of the analysis.

17.     But caution is needed with this approach. There are many instances in which a person, whether employed within a yard or not, might be seen to carry out training activities. An assistant trainer is an obvious example. Though he may carry out many, perhaps most, of the activities that can be described as “training”, he will ordinarily do so under the control and direction of the licensed trainer and plainly does not fall foul of Rule (A)14. An owner or his representative may intervene and insist upon matters such as which vet treats a horse, what they should be fed, and how they should be run. An owner may insist upon a particular jockey to ride his horse. That does not convert the owner into a trainer. And when a trainer goes on holiday, he is not in any sort of day-to-day control of the practical aspects of training. Similarly, if a trainer is ill or injured, he may be out of action for some time. Though there is provision in the Rule (C)9 for temporary licences, unless and until that is granted, the trainer is taking no part in directing the work of his stable staff. It could not then be said that the stable staff are in breach of Rule (A)14.

18.     So the criterion the Panel applied was this. Was Bradley operating an autonomous training operation within Powell’s yard? Or in other words, was Bradley running an operation which was outside the control and direction of Powell?

The main witnesses

19.     Before examining the various facts and matters canvassed at the inquiry to throw light on the issue for decision – was Bradley training the Bradley horses? – the Panel first state its view of the main witnesses.

20.     Powell was, in the Panel’s view, a basically truthful witness. He had known Bradley since their riding days. While they generally got on well, their relationship was not as close or as friendly as Bradley sought to say. They did not socialise, and there was an element of the wariness on Powell’s part about Bradley because of his disciplinary past and, perhaps, because of his more forceful character.

21.     Bradley was subjected to a rigorous cross-examination. A part of this focused upon his previous history and upon a number of matters emerging from the evidence in this inquiry. Their relevance was to challenge the credibility of Bradley’s evidence on the issues for decision. There were many disturbing features. It is not necessary to go through these in detail, because they did not directly arise for decision, being credibility questions, though they may well be found relevant by the Licensing Committee when it comes to decide upon Bradley’s training licence application. This Panel felt that it had to be very cautious in accepting Bradley’s unsupported word on the matters that do arise for decision. There was concern about Bradley’s failure to recognise the seriousness of the misconduct which had led to his disqualifications. It was also very troubling that, after he put in an application that was rejected for his wife to become a registered owner, he arranged for Durack’s partner, Samantha Beddoes, to represent herself to be the owner of his horse SUGARFORMYHONEY (IRE). There was also seeming overcharging by Bradley of such items as transport and farrier costs to the owners of the Bradley horses. He admitted that he occasionally “topped up” to give himself extra, because the rates charged to these owners were so tight. Against these matters, the Panel did set the fact that Bradley had co-operated openly and swiftly with all demands for interviews and documents that came from the BHA. But the overall picture with which the Panel was left was that Bradley’s uncorroborated evidence had to be viewed with great caution.

22.     The Panel heard from a number of other witnesses, many of whom worked at Newlands Stables. All seem to have their own view on the question who was the trainer, Bradley or Powell? Those views were of negligible assistance, but their evidence on what they did at the yard and what others (especially Bradley and Powell) did was of real help.

23.     In the light of the observations above, the Panel arrived at the following findings on the various areas examined at the inquiry that bear upon the issue of whether Bradley was running an autonomous training operation.

(i)        Financial arrangements

24.   When the Panel first saw the documents and heard the BHA’s opening at the inquiry, the financial arrangements for the Bradley horses with their various owners appeared to show a near conclusive case that Powell was not training the Bradley horses and that Bradley was. But that provisional view was materially altered by the evidence of Powell in particular.

25.     The owners of the Bradley horses were each charged between £35 and £40 per week by the training agreements which they had with Powell – an amount appropriate for a livery service rather than a training service. The training agreements (some signed by Bradley as the owners representative) which for the most part evidenced this were said by the BHA to be shams. The Panel did not agree.

26.     One of the owners, Mr Nigel Davies, had originally entered into a more conventionally priced training agreement in September 2012 which provided for a monthly all-in fee of £1094 per horse. But shortly after this, Powell discussed the financial arrangements for the Bradley horses with his yard accountant, Sarah Gandolfo, and the supervisor of his Individual Voluntary Arrangement (“IVA”), Sue Stockley. Powell had entered into an IVA in 2010 when in serious financial difficulty. It obliged him to make payments for the benefit of his creditors for 5 years, while continuing to run his training business. The IVA supervisor, Mrs Stockley, was concerned that the training fee was very tight given all the costs that Powell would have to meet from it, especially as a number of them were uncertain. For instance, Bradley wanted his horses to be kept on the same feed he had used while he was with Durack rather than switching to the feed that Powell used. He also wanted to continue to use the same farrier. These uncertainties and the difficulty for Powell in getting credit from new suppliers led to the revision of the arrangement with Mr Davies so that he was to be charged by Powell £40 per week for use of a box and a bale of hay. That charge covered his own liability for rent to the owner of Newlands Stables, calculated on a per box basis, plus the cost of hay.

27.     In these circumstances, the Panel was persuaded that this move to charging on a livery basis did not also involve an abdication by Powell of his training responsibility. He was simply protecting himself financially. He had of course the prospect of gain through his percentage of prize-money. It was accepted, as Bradley argued, that the trainer can, if he chooses, agree to train for nothing. He cited the example of a well-known trainer who used sometimes to recruit owners with other yards by offering to train their horses for free, no doubt judging that he could improve them, win races and therefore a prize-money percentage, and also raise his profile in the racing world. While Powell’s thinking was different from that, it was dictated by his awkward financial situation and was not an indication either that he was not training the Bradley horses or that Bradley was. The remaining owners of the Bradley horses made their agreements after the date of Mr Davies’s, and they simply provided from the outset for making what was, essentially, a livery charge of £35-£40 per week.

28.     All the owners were in fact charged more substantial sums by Bradley through his bloodstock company. For instance, he charged Mr Davies £1000 per horse (of which there were eventually four) enterprisingly described in Bradley’s invoices as a charge for “horse bedding etc”. Though that was misleading because it undoubtedly represented a concealed element of training fees for Bradley, it does not mean that he was training the horses independently from Powell. The same point applies to the fact that Bradley invoiced the owners of the Bradley horses for “trainers expenses” when they were taken to racecourses.

29.     One feature which troubled the Panel was that Bradley later prevailed upon Powell to share the trainer’s prize-money percentage on a 50/50 basis. But there is no reason in principle why a trainer should not agree to share his percentage with someone like his assistant, however rare that might be in practice. What mattered to the Panel at the end of the day was who had ultimate control of the care, preparation and racing of the horses.

(ii) Care of the Bradley horses

30.     Feeding of all the horses in the yard, including the Bradley horses, was both supervised and carried out by Rachel Powell, who acted as Powell’s assistant trainer. So the Panel attributed minimal weight to the fact that Bradley had a separate feed room and tack room at the yard. The reason for a separate feed room was obvious – Bradley was buying a different feed for his horses. Powell’s inability to find the key for the Bradley feed room when the BHA made its unannounced inspection in July 2013 was of minor significance only – Rachel Powell knew where it was and she was the person in the yard apart from Bradley and Lindsey Gallagher who needed to know its whereabouts. The fact that Bradley used a different farrier to Powell added little – this was really an aspect of the separate cost regimes in operation at the yard because of Powell’s IVA concerns. The same point applies to Bradley’s use of a different veterinary service. In fact, on one occasion, Powell arranged for his own vet to give flu vaccinations to Bradley horses and passed on the charge to Bradley. Bradley bore the main cost of employing Lindsey Gallagher to act as a stable lass for the Bradley horses. This too was done because of Powell’s IVA worries. She had previously worked for Powell. Though the detail of her day to day work was directed by Bradley, she was not outside the control and ultimate direction of Powell.

31.     When the BHA conducted its unannounced inspection of Powell’s yard in July 2013, Mr Tim Miller, BHA Investigating Officer, was taken around by Powell. He gave evidence that Powell was “hesitant” in locating the boxes where the Bradley horses were stabled. Did this indicate a degree of disengagement by Powell from the care and supervision of the Bradley horses? In the end, the Panel decided that it did not, though it readily understood Mr Miller’s concern. Powell’s hesitancy arose because Rachel Powell frequently moved horses between boxes for organisational reasons, and she was very much the person in day-to-day control of the details of stable management.

(iii) Work and exercise

32.     The work and exercise regime for Bradley horses was under the control and management of Powell. He would prepare the work list for all horses in his yard (including the Bradley horses) of an evening, no doubt in discussion and usually agreement with Bradley. He would then give instructions to work riders for the detail of the work required in the morning. There was one occasion at least of disagreement between Powell and Bradley. Powell felt that Bradley (who had limited experience of flat races) was not applying the right regime for some of the Bradley horses due to race on the flat. He required that they do the work he felt necessary rather than that which Bradley was disposed to give them. Powell’s decision on what was required was followed.

33.     Bradley regularly rode work himself, and arranged for others to come to the yard to ride out as necessary. Some of these were doing so without charge, like Lisa Smith (an amateur) and jockeys hoping for rides. Some like Mike Palmer would be paid by Bradley. The work to be done was directed by Powell before the various lots set off for the gallops. The Panel attached significance to the fact that, at the outset of Bradley’s time within Powell’s yard, Powell vetoed Bradley’s attempt to set off for the gallops with the Bradley horses separately from the Powell horses. Powell required that the Bradley horses, in whichever lot they might be on a given morning, should go out amongst the other horses from Powell’s yard. Powell was in the habit of discussing the work with the work riders for all the horses.

(iv) Race planning and race days

34.     Race entries and declarations were decided upon and made by Powell with the administrative help of his partner Emma Hunter. Of course, that would follow discussion with Bradley for the Bradley horses, but the ultimate decisions rested with Powell. On one occasion Bradley did make a bold attempt to get access to the entry system by asking for a password from Weatherbys. But he was unsurprisingly turned down (fortunately for him).

35.     Generally, the Bradley horses were ridden in their races by jockeys who did not ride much, if at all, on Powell horses. But while Powell did not choose them, he did not disapprove of those choices save in one case. But this does not establish that Bradley was training rather than Powell. Jockey choice is often dictated by owners, and it must be recalled that Bradley was in a position to do this as owner’s representative for the Bradley horses. Mr Davies, for example, sponsored Ritchie Killoran and he rode the Davies horses on a number of occasions.

36.     Powell regularly attended the race meetings at which Bradley horses were running, and was of course involved in the giving of instructions for the race to jockeys. There was one occasion of disagreement about the tactics to be followed, and Powell’s preference was not adopted. This was with KNOCKGRAFFON LAD (USA), when ridden by Alain Cawley. But as already pointed out, there are occasions when a trainer’s tactical preferences may be overridden by an owner or his representative. Of course, it is a trainer’s obligation to veto this if he takes the view that the owner’s plan is one which conflicts with the obligation to run a horse to obtain the best possible placing. But short of this concern, there can be legitimate disagreements about how to do this. The Panel concluded that this was an instance of different judgements about the best tactics to follow rather than an occasion where Powell ought to have exercised a veto, and that this does not indicate an abdication of his obligations as a trainer.

Conclusions

37.     Though this was a finely balanced case, the Panel was not persuaded that Bradley was running an autonomous operation from within Powell’s yard, and therefore Bradley was not in breach of Rule (A)14. In the light of that decision, the Panel could not see any separate basis upon which a breach of Rule (A)30 could be established. As Bradley was not running an autonomous operation outside Powell’s control there was nothing prejudicial to the integrity proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing in doing what he did.

38.     It follows that Powell was not in breach of Rule (A)37. For completeness, the Panel points out that if the decision in Bradley’s case had gone the other way, it would have held that Powell assisted such a breach by failing to exercise the control of Bradley that his trainer’s license required. The alternative formulations put by the BHA – that Powell encouraged or caused such a breach – would not have been accepted. As with Bradley, the Panel found that there was no separate basis upon which Powell could be found in breach of Rule (A)30 in circumstances where the basic charge of breach by Bradley of Rule (A)14 was dismissed.

39.       Finally, the Panel emphasises that its ultimate decision was a close run thing. It is fully understood why the BHA initiated this case. There is no doubt that Bradley pushes at the limits of what is legitimate, and is sometimes prepared to cross those limits, as he may well have done when seemingly getting Samantha Beddoes to front as an owner of one of his horses. But he did not do so in relation to the issues decided in this inquiry.

Notes to Editors

1. The Panel for the hearing was: Timothy Charlton QC, William Barlow and Roger Bellamy.

2. Full details of the horses and races involved can be found here: http://www.britishhorseracing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Attachment-to-Bradley-Powell-Reasons.pdf