The following lays out the Disciplinary Panel’s reasons regarding their findings from a hearing involving former licensed apprentice jockey Darren Egan and non-registered person Philip Langford. The hearing took place on 23 November and the result was published on the same day, and can be found here.
1. On 23 November 2015, the Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) held an enquiry into allegations that the jockey Darren Egan and a gambler named Philip Langford were engaged in a corrupt conspiracy to exploit Inside Information from Egan about his rides (and occasionally the rides of his then girlfriend, Laura Pike).
2. Neither Egan nor Mr Langford came to the hearing, which went ahead in their absence. Having considered the evidence put forward and the submissions made by Louis Weston, counsel for the BHA, as well as some late written submissions from Egan and Mr Langford, the Panel concluded that all the charges against both of them were made good. That decision was made public on 23 November 2015. The Panel then announced that a penalty of disqualification was inevitable for Egan and that it was equally inevitable that Mr Langford should be the subject of an exclusion order. Those penalties were imposed with immediate effect. The Panel sets out below the reasons for its decisions. The length of the period of disqualification (in Egan’s case) and of exclusion (in Mr Langford’s case) will be determined after all parties have considered these reasons.
3. Egan and Mr Langford each were alleged to be in breach of Rules (A)41.1 and 41.2 by conspiring to commit a fraudulent practice in relation to racing by exploiting information from Egan about the prospects of his rides and those of his girlfriend Miss Pike. It was further said that the information from Egan included indications that he would if necessary ride to lose to bring about the success of Mr Langford’s lay betting, and that on two occasions (IMPERIAL SPIRIT on 12 July 2013 and TREGERETH (IRE) on 16 July 2013) he in fact did so.
4. Egan was accordingly also charged with breach of Rule (B)58.1 over his riding of IMPERIAL SPIRIT and TREGERETH (IRE), and with breach of Rule (A)36 over the alleged supply of Inside Information to Mr Langford. Mr Langford was additionally charged with breach of Rule (A)37 by encouraging Egan to act in breach of Rules (A)36 and (B)58.1.
The chronology of events and the Panel’s findings
5. The time span of the alleged conspiracy stretched from 17 June 2013 to 16 July 2013. Prior to that, Mr Langford, a businessman, had been a substantial gambler placing over 50,000 bets through his Betfair account (and a second account in the name of one of his employees) between 2004 and June 2013. Over that lengthy period, his betting showed no concentration upon laying or backing particular horses, jockeys, trainers or owners. But this changed suddenly in mid-June 2013. He began to lay horses ridden by the apprentice Darren Egan, who had held a licence since January 2012. Mr Langford also began to use a Betdaq account for racing bets from 27 June 2013.
6. By 17 July, the top 11 lay liabilities ever risked on his own Betfair account were for Egan rides; 14 of the top 20 lay liabilities on the Betfair account in his employee’s name were for Egan rides; and 14 of the 18 bets placed through Betdaq were for Egan rides. Additionally, two further heavy lay betting risks were taken against Miss Pike’s rides. Annex A to these Reasons details Egan’s rides over the period of the alleged conspiracy.
7. On 17 July 2013, Betfair suspended Mr Langford’s accounts. By this date, he had risked £838,870 on Egan rides, making an overall profit of £53,560 on the Betfair and Betdaq accounts. Analysis of the Betfair accounts shows that Mr Langford was taking extraordinary percentages of both the win and place markets for the larger Egan liabilities he risked. He took a quarter to a third of the whole market for his win lays, and frequently took 70-80% of the place market.
8. The BHA, having been notified of these betting patterns, then began to investigate. Egan was interviewed in October 2013, when he denied knowing anything of Mr Langford and denied any contact with him. Mr Langford took a similar line when he was interviewed in December 2013. He said he did not know Egan, or have contact with him. He further explained that his lay betting against Egan and Miss Pike rides during the period in question was motivated by his use of a betting software package called Fracsoft, and sought to back this up with some detailed written material.
9. However, when Egan was interviewed a second time in December 2014, he gave some unusual answers to further questions about Mr Langford. He no longer gave a bare denial of knowing him or having contact with him: he merely said (through his solicitor) that he would not “answer at the moment”. He refused to say whether he had a phone other than that which he had registered with the BHA, and also refused to answer questions about a mobile number ending with the digits 926 in which the investigators had become interested. Just as remarkably, he refused to say whether he had received any money from Mr Langford. Having been invited to reconsider and to provide any further evidence when he was later supplied with the transcript of that interview, he maintained his silence and provided nothing.
10. For the BHA, matters advanced when some call records for the 926 phone were obtained by the Gambling Commission and supplied by it to the BHA. An impressive analysis of these and other phone records by Mr John Gardner of the BHA established to the Panel’s satisfaction that the 926 phone was used by Egan during the period of the lay betting. That conclusion was reinforced by the contents of Egan’s last minute submission to the Panel before the start of the enquiry which is referred to below. The 926 number was first activated on 18 June 2013, at the start of the period of Mr Langford’s concentration upon lay betting against Egan rides.
11. There were a number of calls and texts passing between the 926 number and Mr Langford’s phone, and many were close to the time of Egan rides. Not only were there contacts between the 926 phone and the number which Mr Langford had registered with Betfair, but also with another mobile (ending with the digits 194) which the evidence shows also to have been used by Mr Langford both during June/July 2013 and later. That 194 number was registered with Betfair as the phone for an account opened in February 2014 in the name of Marc Hobson. In the course of his investigations, Mr Tim Miller of the BHA called the 194 number on several occasions in September 2014. Mr Langford answered, though he pretended to be Marc Hobson. The speaker did eventually admit to Mr Miller (who recognised his voice) that he was Mr Langford and that he had opened the Hobson account because his own had been closed.
12. So during June and July 2013, both Egan and Mr Langford were using phones to contact each other that they had taken steps to conceal. They plainly both gave untruthful answers in their interviews of their knowledge of each other and of their contacts with each other. A timeline prepared by Mr Gardner for the early days of Mr Langford’s new-found enthusiasm for laying rides by Egan and Miss Pike shows a correlation between the contacts of Egan and Mr Langford on the one hand and the lay betting against Egan and Miss Pike rides on the other hand. The clear inference, which the Panel accepted, (having rejected Mr Langford’s explanation in interview that his Fracsoft package motivated his lay betting) was that Egan was providing information to Mr Langford about these rides. Egan had begun a relationship with Miss Pike in June 2013 and they were often in contact by phone, sometimes using the 926 number. The Panel concluded that Egan was passing information to Mr Langford not only about his own rides but about Miss Pike’s as well.
13. After the allegations of breach of the Rules of Racing were put forward by the BHA in June 2015, with accompanying documentation, Egan and Mr Langford submitted their Schedule (A)6 forms which provided them with the opportunity to respond to the charges.
14. Mr Langford’s Schedule (A)6 put forward a general denial of breach and rejected the allegation that he asked for Inside Information from Egan or used any when placing his lay bets. He later sought an adjournment of the hearing originally scheduled for October 2015 on the grounds that he had a personal difficulty which made him unavailable for the October 2015 hearing dates that he had previously agreed. He said he wanted to attend the hearing and to be heard in his defence. As it was possible to hold a hearing a month later, the Chairman of this Panel granted that adjournment without engaging in an examination of whether the facts cited by Mr Langford to justify this were genuine. However, having obtained the adjournment, Mr Langford then indicated that he would not attend. But he submitted a document on 18 November 2015 which altered his position somewhat. This says that “he did have indirect access to information potentially from Darren Egan”, but indicated that it was of a general and superficial nature. The document admitted breach of Rule (A)41 insofar as he was alleged to have encouraged or caused Egan to pass on inside information that Mr Langford used. But otherwise, Mr Langford maintained the position that he was not guilty of any other breaches.
15. Mr Langford’s document did not grapple with the detailed analysis carried out by the BHA’s betting expert Mr Tom Chignell of the supposed reliance by Mr Langford upon his Fracsoft package to identify his Egan and Miss Pike lay betting. In the Panel’s view, Mr Chignell’s thorough analysis demonstrated that the reliance upon Fracsoft as the principal reason for the lay betting was false: it was no more than a smokescreen. The true basis for the lay betting was to be found in the information being provided by Egan. Furthermore, that information was coming directly from Egan to Mr Langford through the use of phones that each of them had taken steps to conceal. Mr Langford’s curious but limited admission of “indirect” contact was not the true position.
16. Egan’s Schedule (A)6 form denied all allegations of breach. However, he did say “I think I may have had some contact and stupidly given some information out on a few of my rides without realising it…” On the morning of the enquiry (23 November 2015), he sent an e-mail to the BHA, saying that “visa delays”, which he did not explain, accounted for his non-attendance. The e-mail went on to set out a materially different story to that which he had told in his interviews, but made no explicit admission of the breaches alleged against him. It said that while he was living in Newmarket, he met a businessman named Marc Hobson who expressed an interest in sponsoring him for £5000. The following day, he said, he was presented with £1000 in an envelope and a small phone which, he said he realised, would involve him in a breach of the Rules of Racing if he used it. He said he “needed the money desperately, and so I accepted it along with the envelope”. He went on to admit that he did use the phone, but the discussions were principally about paperwork for the sponsorship and that he was “well reserved in the conversations about my rides”. He expressed the view that “Hobson and Langford were working together to exploit me”. As well as denying that he passed any specific information about his rides, he denied also either questioning Miss Pike about her rides or passing any information about them to Marc Hobson or Mr Langford. He maintained his position that he had always ridden his horses on their merits, and that he had never said to anybody that any horse would not win.
17. The Panel did not accept this last-minute version of events, which could not be tested by cross-examination in the light of his non-attendance. As Mr Miller’s evidence showed, Mr Langford did use Marc Hobson as an alias, both in telephone conversations with Mr Miller and when setting up another Betfair account in February 2014. The Panel concluded that whether Egan knew Mr Langford by his correct name or by the name of Marc Hobson, he was dealing with one and the same person when engaged in contacts with him through the concealed phone numbers.
18. The next question was what if any information was being provided by Egan to Mr Langford. Was it general and non-specific, as they said, or was it (as the BHA contended) inside information that included indications that Egan would ride to lose if necessary to support the lay betting? An important plank of the BHA’s case in support of their version was that Egan did in fact ride to lose on two horses – IMPERIAL SPIRIT on 12 July 2013 at Chepstow and TREGERETH (IRE) on 16 July 2013 at Bath.
19. The Panel’s conclusions on these allegations were as follows: –
(i) IMPERIAL SPIRIT.
Having studied the full recordings of this race, the Panel found that there was a deliberate failure by Egan to ride the horse on its merits, in breach of Rule (B)58.1. The race was a 6 furlong event, in which Egan was drawn in stall 2. Just after the 3 furlong marker, when his horse was handily positioned, though racing somewhat away from the remainder of the field and nearest to the inside rail, Egan began a series of four looks across at the other runners, ending just over one furlong out. At this point, when still in contention, he moved his horse’s head to the right and to the left, when he had a clear passage and no genuine racing reason for doing this. He also briefly restrained his horse at this stage, which was a critical moment of the race when all other riders were driving strongly for the finish. There was an absence of any real push from Egan until there were 4 or 5 horses clearly ahead of him, and when he was about 80 yards from the line. There were, it is true, 7 hits with the whip delivered by Egan, but all bar one was a backhand slap and all were light and of negligible effect. The whip use was more for show than for real encouragement. It was not possible to ascribe these actions to inexperience, misjudgement or a negligent “lazy” ride, given what the recordings show and given also the Panel’s conclusions about Egan’s phone contacts with Mr Langford and the latter’s lay betting.
(ii) TREGERETH (IRE)
Again, the Panel decided that Egan’s ride demonstrated a deliberate breach of the Rule (B)58.1 obligation to ride his horse on its merits. His mount broke well in this 5 ½ furlong event. He maintained a hold of the horse’s head at all times up to the one furlong marker. At this point, it was travelling well but Egan’s effort showed a complete contrast with that of the other jockeys around him. He was lined up directly behind another horse, before going late for an obvious gap. He never got into a drive position. He did use the whip, 4 times in the backhand and 4 times in the forehand, but these were little more than pats. His horse began to run on after the second forehand hit, but he promptly put the whip down and re-gathered hold of the horse’s head. He did this at a point in the race when it was not clear whether he could finish either first or second, which would have caused the loss of the lay bets. As before, and for the same reasons, the ride could not be characterised as misjudged or negligent: he deliberately rode it otherwise than on its merits.
20. Having reached those conclusions about the two rides, the Panel further reasoned that it was part of his arrangement with Mr Langford that Egan would ride to lose if necessary for the purpose of the lay bets. The pair of them were engaged in the corrupt practice and conspiracy charged by the BHA, in breach of Rules (A)41.1 and 41.2. Egan was also in breach of Rule (A)36 through his communication of Inside Information to Mr Langford, as the Panel was satisfied that he received payment for it. Quite apart from his last-minute admission that he was paid £1000 in cash at the time when he was supplied with the 926 mobile phone, the nature of his later rides and his earlier concealments of his involvement with Mr Langford lead to the inference that he received other payments. Furthermore, the Panel was persuaded that Mr Langford’s lay betting against Miss Pike’s rides on 22 and 26 June 2013 (see Annex A) was informed by Inside Information from Egan which he had obtained in turn from Miss Pike. Despite Egan’s and Miss Pike’s denials of this, it is incontrovertible that she was in regular contact with him as they were in a relationship at the time and because she also used the 926 number to speak with him at around the time of these races. Whether Miss Pike also knew about the fact that information was being passed on to Mr Langford was not an issue before the Panel, as she was facing no charges, and no findings are made in relation to this.
21. The Panel’s reasons in relation to the corrupt practice and conspiracy also make good the allegations which Mr Langford eventually admitted on 18 November 2015 to the effect that he caused Egan to pass inside information to him and used it corruptly for lay betting. They also make good the further charge against him of breach of Rule (A)37, to the effect that he encouraged or caused Egan to act in breach of Rule (A)36 and Rule (B)58.1.
Notes to Editors:
1. The Panel for the enquiry was: Tim Charlton (Chair), Diana Powles, Rodger Bellamy
2. Annex A, the table of races, can be found here.