Results of enquiries (O’Mahoney, Johnson Houghton, Lee, Keighley) heard by the Disciplinary Panel on Thursday 23 October
1. On Thursday 23 October 2014 the Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) held an enquiry to consider whether or not Gerrard O’Mahoney, the joint Owner of SPEIGHTOWNS KID (USA), in the period between 1 March 2013 and 18 March 2013 acted in breach of Rule (E)92.2 of the Rules of Racing by instructing Mr Michael Spencer to place lay bets on the gelding in the Grundfos Watermill Handicap at Lingfield on 1 March 2013 (“First Race”) and the Betvictor Casino On Your Mobile Handicap at Kempton on 18 March 2013 (“Second Race”). Mr O’Mahoney was the joint Owner of SPEIGHTOWNS KID (USA) with Mr Darren Yates from 1 February 2013 to 4 March 2014.
2. The Panel also considered whether during the same period he acted in breach of Rule (A)36 by communicating Inside Information to Mr Spencer about the gelding for material reward, gift, favour and/or benefit in kind.
3. The Panel heard evidence from the BHA and acknowledged that Mr O’Mahoney had accepted the charges against him and asked that the matter be concluded in his absence.
4. The Panel noted that the lay bets had been placed using a Betfair individual account called ‘speddy18’ which was registered to Mr Michael Spencer. Mr Spencer and Mr O’Mahoney both live in Blackpool. It was also the BHA’s understanding that Mr Spencer and Mr O’Mahoney were friends on Facebook and played in the same football team.
5. The BHA’s case was that the closeness of this relationship, the proximity of the relevant telephone contact between Mr O’Mahoney and Mr Spencer and the betting on the races in question, as well as the confidence with which Mr Spencer placed these lay bets suggested that Mr O’Mahoney either instructed Mr Spencer to place lay bets on a horse he owned or that he benefited from passing Inside Information to Mr Spencer that enabled the successful lay betting strategy.
6. On 18 March 2013, following the Second Race, Betfair had contacted Mr Spencer to suspend his account following concerns regarding his recent laying activity in relation to SPEIGHTOWNS KID (USA). Mr Spencer’s betting account details were passed to the BHA for further investigation. Analysis of his Betfair account revealed that although it had been open and active since 2007, Mr Spencer had very little British Horseracing activity. During the six years the account had been open, Mr Spencer had only placed bets on five British horse races. The bet Mr Spencer had placed on SPEIGHTOWNS KID (USA) for the First Race was larger both in stake and risk than the other British horseracing bets on the account.
7. The BHA had established that Mr Spencer had layed the gelding in the First Race in a series of bets funded by a deposit of £1,360 at 2.12pm. The risk was £1,346.55. The bet had been successful as the gelding had finished fourth out of six runners and Mr Spencer had profited by £675. Mr Spencer had withdrawn £1,940 from the account 17 minutes after the start of the First Race.
8. One week later, Mr Spencer had placed a further bet on SPEIGHTOWNS KID (USA) when he had backed it in the 6.10pm race at Wolverhampton on 8 March 2013. As the gelding had finished fifth of the nine runners, Mr Spencer had lost his £46.41 stake. Although the BHA did not have any undue concerns about this bet, it was relevant for the purposes of showing that Mr Spencer had developed a relationship with Mr O’Mahoney in relation to SPEIGHTOWNS KID (USA) and there was evidence, which showed an increased level of contact between Mr Spencer and Mr O’Mahoney on the days that the gelding had run.
9. The final bets on the account were a £300 lay bet on the gelding in the win market and a £2,810.45 lay bet on the gelding in the place market in the Second Race, for a combined liability of £4,897.82. SPEIGHTOWNS KID (USA) had finished last out of seven runners and Mr Spencer had profited by £3,110.45. This was a complete reversal of the position taken in the Wolverhampton race on 8 March 2013, just ten days earlier. The lay liability was the largest on the account to date. Following the Second Race, Betfair had frozen the winnings on the account and suspended it.
The telephone records
10. As part of its investigation, the BHA had served Telephone Production Orders (“TPO”) on Mr Spencer, Mr Yates and Mr O’Mahoney. After initially failing to comply with the TPO, Mr Spencer did finally provide his records from 26 February 2013 to 26 March 2013. Mr Spencer had, however, refused to be interviewed and has since been excluded. Both Mr Yates and Mr O’Mahoney (from 19 February 2013 to 31 March 2013) had complied with the request.
11. In support of the BHA’s case, the clearest evidence was the records of the telephone calls between Mr Spencer and Mr O’Mahoney, particularly on the days of the races. The BHA had also considered the telephone calls between Mr O’Mahoney and Mr Spencer around 8 March 2013, the day of the race at Wolverhampton. It would appear that, following two lengthy conversations between the two, one on the morning of 8 March and one the evening before, a decision had been taken not to place lay bets on SPEIGHTOWNS KID (USA) for that race. Instead Mr Spencer had backed the gelding but had been unsuccessful. The analysis did suggest that there was a greater volume of contact between Mr O’Mahoney and Mr Spencer (both in terms of the number of calls/texts and duration) on the days of the races that were the subject of the enquiry.
a) The First Race
Mr Spencer and Mr O’Mahoney had been in regular contact by telephone and text message throughout the day. There had been 18 telephone calls and 18 text messages exchanged between the two. Crucially a telephone call of two minutes, 36 seconds had taken place three minutes before a deposit of £1,360 had been placed in Mr Spencer’s account. The first lay bet of £8 had then been placed at 2.13pm before a two minute and seven second call between the two. From 2.23pm until 3.26pm Mr Spencer had placed further lay bets on the gelding and during this period, there had been numerous calls and texts between him and Mr O’Mahoney. Following the completion of the First Race, Mr O’Mahoney had called Mr Spencer for one minute and 53 seconds. Mr Spencer had then withdrawn £1,940 from his account at 3.57pm.
b) The Second Race
Similar to the First Race, Mr Spencer and Mr O’Mahoney had been in regular contact throughout the day with 18 telephone calls, two multiple photo messages and four text messages. There had been notable early communication between the two, at 11.29am as Mr O’Mahoney had called Mr Spencer for seven minutes and 40 seconds followed by another seven minutes, 59 second telephone call at 11.41am. Immediately after the second call had been concluded, Mr Spencer had placed his first lay bet on the gelding, at 11.49am.
Mr Spencer had continued laying and had made several deposits in the lead up to the Second Race, during which time there had been further calls with Mr O’Mahoney. The telephone records illustrated that the calls between Mr Spencer and Mr O’Mahoney, prior to the race, were the only calls that Mr Spencer had made that morning and early afternoon. Mr Spencer had also sent Mr O’Mahoney two photo messages, one just after making a deposit of £2,500 to his account at 1.22pm and the second after placing his final lay bet at 2.43pm. Mr O’Mahoney and Mr Spencer had been in communication by telephone both before and after the Second Race, which began at 2.51pm. Following the conclusion of the Second Race, at 2.56pm the two had a telephone conversation lasting two minutes and 31 seconds. Mr Spencer had then tried, unsuccessfully, to make contact with Mr O’Mahoney before Betfair had contacted him.
Contact with Betfair
12. At 4.01pm, Betfair had contacted Mr Spencer to inform him that his account would be suspended pending an investigation into his betting activity. This call had been recorded and a transcript had been produced. On the telephone call, Mr Spencer had informed Betfair that he had “no connections to the horse at all”. Mr Spencer had stated that he “couldn’t tell you who owns it”. Following the telephone call with Betfair, Mr Spencer had tried to make contact with Mr O’Mahoney twice before having two conversations with him of five minutes, 17 seconds at 4.37pm and two minutes, 53 seconds at 5.11pm. Mr Spencer had called Betfair at 5.50pm to ask about the return of his initial stake despite his account being suspended. Within 15 minutes of this call, the first call Mr Spencer had made was to Mr O’Mahoney. Following Betfair’s follow up call to Mr Spencer on 19 March 2013 at 10.50am, Mr Spencer had immediately tried to contact Mr O’Mahoney and Mr O’Mahoney had returned his call back a minute later when they had spoken for three and a half minutes.
13. The BHA’s case was that as soon as Betfair suspended the account and made Mr Spencer aware of their concerns, he had contacted Mr O’Mahoney. He had had two lengthy conversations with him and then had contacted Betfair again to ask for the return of the stake money. This contact suggested that it was Mr O’Mahoney who had been funding the lay betting strategy and had hoped to receive a share of any profit from it. It is highly suspicious that the two were in such close and lengthy contact at this time given that Mr O’Mahoney had stated in interview that the first time he had been informed that Mr Spencer had layed the gelding was when his co-owner, Mr Yates, had contacted him having been informed of the BHA investigation.
Interviews with the BHA
14. BHA Investigating Officers John Burgess and Jon Dunn interviewed Mr O’Mahoney on 21 November 2013. Mr O’Mahoney had confirmed that he and Mr Spencer were good friends and had spoken regularly. Mr O’Mahoney had admitted that he would talk about SPEIGHTOWNS KID (USA)’s chances, but only ever in vague terms. Mr O’Mahoney had not recalled the specific content from his conversation with Mr Spencer but had suspected that Mr Spencer had chosen to lay the gelding to lose based on the information that he had given him. Mr O’Mahoney had denied any involvement in the laying of the gelding and had denied knowing about Mr Spencer’s involvement until around the end of September. Mr O’Mahoney had stated in the interview that during their conversations, on the days of the First Race and the Second Race, Mr Spencer had not mentioned that he would be making deposits to his betting account nor did he tell Mr O’Mahoney that he was laying the gelding to lose. Mr O’Mahoney had been unable to give an explanation for the increased contact with Mr Spencer on the days of the suspicious betting or recall the content of the calls when Mr Spencer was making deposits to his account and following his contact with Betfair. Mr O’Mahoney had been given adequate opportunity to offer an explanation in relation to his contact with Mr Spencer. His only explanation from the interview had been: “He could be calling me about anything. He could be telling me anything”. In relation to the picture messages, Mr O’Mahoney had stated “I must have received pictures but I don’t remember receiving any pictures of a screen shot at all”. Mr O’Mahoney had claimed to have sold the handset which he had used on the days of the races.
15. It was the BHA’s case that Mr O’Mahoney had failed to offer a credible explanation for his contact with Mr Spencer. It was difficult for the BHA to accept, despite Mr O’Mahoney’s assertions, that the calls between the two had been nothing to do with Mr Spencer’s laying of the gelding and the subsequent investigation by Betfair. It was the BHA’s view that Mr O’Mahoney had been receiving the whole or some part of any proceeds of the lay bets. Based on the analysis of the timelines for the races and Mr O’Mahoney’s interview, the BHA was of the view that either Mr O’Mahoney instructed Mr Spencer to place lay bets on the gelding for both the First Race and the Second Race or that he had passed Inside Information to him for the purpose of Spencer’s lay betting strategy and had benefitted from doing so.
16. The Panel accepted an admission from Mr O’Mahoney that he was in breach of Rules (E)92.2 and (A)36.
17. The Panel noted that Mr Spencer had supplied his telephone records to the BHA, but had not assisted with the investigation further. Mr Spencer had therefore been served with an indefinite exclusion order.
18. The Panel declared Mr O’Mahoney to be a disqualified person for a period of three years from Friday 24 October 2014 until 23 October 2017 inclusive.
Eve Johnson Houghton
1. The Disciplinary Panel of BHA on Thursday 23 October 2014 held an enquiry into the analysis of the urine samples taken, by order of the Stewards, from CHARLIE WELLS (IRE), trained by Ms Eve Johnson Houghton, after the gelding had finished first in the 32Red Classified Stakes at Chepstow on 23 June 2014. The sample from the gelding had tested positive for prohibited substances, in breach of Rule (C)53 of the Rules of Racing.
2. The Panel heard submissions from the BHA and Ms Johnson Houghton’s legal representative.
3. The urine sample obtained from the gelding was found to contain morphine and codeine, which are prohibited substances. The trainer exercised her right to have the ‘B’ sample analysed at LGC which confirmed the original finding.
4. The Panel noted that on 15 July 2014 BHA Investigating Officers conducted an inspection of the additives and supplements on the yard that were regularly fed to the gelding, although it was also noted that none of the specific batches fed to the gelding prior to the race remained on the yard. The stable environment of the gelding was also inspected. There had been no concerns arising from the inspection. Additionally, an inspection was conducted of all the medication on the yard and, from the ingredients lists, no medication appeared to contain morphine or codeine. Additionally, the medication records had been inspected and there were no entries for the gelding, or any other horse on the yard, for any medication or treatment containing morphine or codeine. Ms Johnson Houghton’s veterinary practice also confirmed that CHARLIE WELLS (IRE) had not been administered or prescribed morphine or codeine.
5. Ms Johnson Houghton had stated that she obtained all feed products from supplier John Toomer & Sons. She had also stated that she liked to have a regular turnover of feed and did not keep more than was required for one week. She added that she did not keep samples of feedstuff nor record batch numbers. Ms Johnson Houghton used various feed brands, including Natural Animal Feeds, Dobson & Horrell, Dengie and Baileys.
6. Following the BHA inspection, Ms Johnson Houghton informed the BHA that all the horses on her yard were also fed a ‘mash’, which she prepared on the yard using raw materials. One of the ingredients was linseed which was boiled on the yard. The linseed, which was supplied via a chain of wholesalers, was sourced from GB Seeds, a company that specialises in bird seed.
A sample of the linseed had been obtained by the BHA Chief Veterinary Officer in which various other types of material had been identified, suggesting possible contamination of the produce. A portion of this sample of linseed had also been sent to LGC for a full scan analysis and no prohibited substance had been found. Ms Johnson Houghton had instructed Independent Equine Nutrition to conduct an independent analysis of the same bag of linseed and the result of this analysis was positive for morphine. The Panel noted that Ms Johnson Houghton mixes bags of linseed which could have explained the inconsistencies of the materials contained in the samples analysed.
7. During June and July BHA had been in discussions with the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) regarding several findings of morphine. BETA is the official representative body for the equestrian manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade feed. On 23 July 2014, BETA had released a statement to the public stating that two companies within the feed industry had discovered that some of the raw material used in feeds may have been contaminated by seeds from the morphine poppy. Ms Johnson Houghton did not feed either product to CHARLIE WELLS (IRE).
8. BETA operates an assurance scheme that is designed to reduce the risk of naturally occurring prohibited substances in equine feeds – the Universal Feed Assurance scheme NOPS (“the Code”). NOPS are substances that are either naturally present within certain feed ingredients or that occur as a result of inadvertent cross-contamination during the processing and/or transport or storage. Morphine and codeine are both NOPS.
9. GB Seeds is not accredited under the Code, presumably because it is not a predominant supplier of equine feed.
10. Despite BHA’s investigation, it had not been possible to identify the source of the morphine and codeine in the sample. However, BHA had accepted that the source of the prohibited substances was likely to have been either contamination of the raw materials used to produce the mash that was fed to CHARLIE WELLS (USA), or contamination when mixing the mash itself on Ms Johnson Houghton’s yard.
11. The Panel further noted that Ms Johnson Houghton could not be assured that the product underwent any process of testing to avoid the risk of contamination and did not minimise the risk of contamination by sourcing the material from a producer subject to the UFAS/NOPS code.
12. After considering the evidence, including submissions from Ms Johnson Houghton, the Panel was unable to establish the source of the substance, and could not therefore be satisfied that the administration of the substance was accidental.
13. The Panel accepted an admission from Ms Johnson Houghton that she was in breach of Rule (C)53 and imposed a fine of £1,000. It was not asked by the BHA to consider a contribution to the costs associated with the analysis of the ‘B’ sample.
14. Under Rule (A)74.2 the Panel disqualified CHARLIE WELLS (IRE) from the race, placing GO FOR BROKE first, SERENA GRAE second, CANOVA (IRE) third and KHEE SOCIETY fourth.
The Disciplinary Panel of BHA held an enquiry on Thursday 23 October 2014 into a report that CARAMACK, trained by Richard Lee, had refused to race in the Hotel and Conferencing At Wolverhampton Racecourse Handicap Stakes at Wolverhampton on 15 September 2014. The matter was referred to BHA by the Wolverhampton Stewards following their enquiry of the same day, because the gelding had also refused to race in two of its last three races at Carlisle on 4 August 2014 and Chepstow on 25 August 2014.
The Panel noted that the gelding had left Lee’s yard and was now in training with P D Evans who had undertaken a significant amount of stalls practice with CARAMACK. Evans requested he be given the opportunity to take a stalls test with CARAMACK.
Having considered the evidence, the Panel decided not to exercise its powers under Rule (F)66 of the Rules of Racing and place a restriction on the gelding being entered and run. However, the Panel directed that if CARAMACK failed its stalls test or was reported for unruly behaviour in the next 12 months the matter should be referred back to BHA.
The Disciplinary Panel of BHA held an enquiry on Thursday 23 October 2014 into a report that BOLD TARA, trained by Martin Keighley, had refused to race in the Jockeys’ Training Series Handicap Hurdle Race at Southwell on 2 October 2014. The matter was referred to BHA by the Southwell Stewards following their enquiry of the same day because the mare had also refused to race in its last two races at Worcester on 31 August and 9 September 2014.
Having considered the evidence, including correspondence from Keighley stating that the mare had been retired and returned to her owner on 3 October 2014, the Panel declared that with immediate effect under Rule (F)66, no further entries would be accepted for BOLD TARA for races run under the Rules of Racing.
Notes to editors:
1. The Panel for the enquires was: Philip Curl (Chair), Edward Dorrell, Roger Bellamy