The Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) met on 30 and 31 January and 1 February 2012 to enquire into breaches of the Rules of Racing arising from the running of TIMETEAM (IRE) and TRIP SWITCH at Lingfield in January 2010.
Seven individuals were charged with breaches of the Rules of Racing. At the conclusion of the Enquiry the following findings were made:
In relation to the running and riding of TIMETEAM (IRE) on 22 January 2010 and TRIP SWITCH on 27 January 2010 George Prodromou, the trainer, was found in breach of:
Rule (A)41.2 in that he conspired with other persons to commit a corrupt and fraudulent practice by communicating directly and indirectly to one or more Betting Exchange account holders information relating to the prospects in the race of TIMETEAM (IRE) and TRIP SWITCH which was or included information (i) obtained in his capacity as a licensed person, and (ii) which was not publicly available or authorised for such disclosure by the Rules of Racing (‘Inside Information’), being reckless as to whether this was so and being reckless as to whether, such information would or might be used to gain an unfair advantage in the betting market.
Rule (C)45.4.1 by failing to give instructions to Charlotte Kerton, the rider, on both occasions, necessary for the horses to run on their merits.
Prodromou admitted at the outset of the Enquiry that he was in breach of Rule (C)64.1 in that he placed lay bets with a Betting Organisation on a horse under his care and control to lose a race; namely MISTY FROSTY (IRE) on 18 December 2009 and 15 January 2010.
In relation to the running and riding of TIMETEAM (IRE) on 22 January 2010 and TRIP SWITCH on 27 January 2010 Charlotte Kerton, the rider, was found in breach in both races of:
Rule (B)59.2 in that she intentionally failed to ensure that the geldings were run on their merits. The Panel found these breaches were committed in return for a personal reward.
In relation to the running and riding of TIMETEAM (IRE) on 22 January 2010 and TRIP SWITCH on 27 January 2010 Stuart Compton was found in breach of:
Rule (A)41.2 in that he conspired with other persons to commit a corrupt and fraudulent practice by placing lay bets on the horses TIMETEAM (IRE) and TRIP SWITCH (the “Named Horses”) not to be placed in the races using information he had received indirectly from Prodromou in the races relating to the prospects in the races of the Named Horses which included information (i) obtained by Prodromou in his capacity as a licensed person which was (ii) not publicly available or authorised for such disclosure by the Rules of Racing (“Inside Information”), and knowing that (i) and (ii) were the case, and knowing that such information would provide an unfair advantage in the betting market.
In relation to the running and riding of TIMETEAM (IRE) on 22 January 2010 Filippos Sergides was in breach of:
Rule (A)41.2 in that he conspired with other persons to commit a corrupt and fraudulent practice by placing lay bets on the horse TIMETEAM (IRE) (the “Named Horse”) not to be placed in the race using information he had received directly from Prodromou in the race relating to the prospects in the race of the Named Horse which included information (i) obtained by Prodromou in his capacity as a licensed person which was (ii) not publicly available or authorised for such disclosure by the Rules of Racing (“Inside Information”), and knowing that (i) and (ii) were the case, and knowing that such information would provide an unfair advantage in the betting market.
In relation to the running and riding of TIMETEAM (IRE) on 22 January 2010 John Hogan was in breach of:
Rule (A)41.2 in that he conspired with other persons to commit a corrupt and fraudulent practice by placing lay bets on the horse TIMETEAM (IRE) (the “Named Horse”) not to be placed in the race using information he had received indirectly from Prodromou in the race relating to the prospects in the race of the Named Horse which included information (i) obtained by Prodromou in his capacity as a licensed person which was (ii) not publicly available or authorised for such disclosure by the Rules of Racing (“Inside Information”), and knowing that (i) and (ii) were the case, and knowing that such information would provide an unfair advantage in the betting market.
In relation to the running and riding of TIMETEAM (IRE) on 22 January 2010 Alexander Starret was in breach of:
Rule (A)41.2 in that he conspired with other persons to commit a corrupt and fraudulent practice by placing lay bets on the horse TIMETEAM (IRE) (the “Named Horse”) not to win or be placed in the race using information he had received directly from Prodromou in the race relating to the prospects in the race of the Named Horse which included information (i) obtained by Prodromou in his capacity as a licensed person which was (ii) not publicly available or authorised for such disclosure by the Rules of Racing (“Inside Information”), and knowing that (i) and (ii) were the case, and knowing that such information would provide an unfair advantage in the betting market.
The Panel also considered allegations against Gary Banham in relation to these races but did not find the allegations proven.
1.1 The background to the Enquiry concerns two races involving horses which were owned and trained by George Prodromou and ridden by Charlotte Kerton. The first race was on the 22 January 2010 at 1.30pm at Lingfield over six furlongs. TIMETEAM (IRE) was drawn four in a field of six and went off with a starting price of 8/1. As the stalls opened TIMETEAM (IRE) did not jump out and by the time it started to race it had lost at least ten lengths on the field. The Panel’s view of the head-on video was that the horse’s head was intentionally turned to the right by Ms Kerton to such an extent that the gelding could not start on even terms with the other runners.
1.2 Having lost so much ground, Ms Kerton then showed no urgency in trying to regain any sort of position and if anything seemed quite content to allow the other horses in the race to increase their lead on TIMETEAM (IRE). On turning into the straight there was still no sign of an attempt by Ms Kerton to ask TIMETEAM (IRE) to close on the leaders which by now had an unassailable advantage. Ms Kerton never appeared to be riding the gelding to compete in the race and in fact appeared to be doing the complete opposite of what might be expected by a jockey asking their mount for a timely, real and substantial effort. At the line TIMETEAM (IRE) was only beaten by eight and a quarter lengths having run on far too late under a very weak hands and heels effort by Ms Kerton in the closing stages. It is of note that the Panel had the opportunity during the Enquiry of seeing Ms Kerton riding other races where she demonstrated that she was quite capable of riding an adequate finish despite not being the strongest of jockeys. The Stewards held an enquiry. At that time the Stewards did not have access to the detailed betting information possessed by the Panel. Ms Kerton told the Stewards that she had tried to straighten the horse’s head in the stalls but the horse cocked its jaw. Prodromou said he was satisfied with the jockey’s ride and felt that the fault lay with the horse not the jockey. The Stewards noted the explanation.
1.3 The second race forming the subject matter of the Enquiry took place on the 27 January at 1.30pm at Lingfield. TRIP SWITCH was drawn twelve in a field of twelve and was sent off with a starting price of 20/1. The gelding finished tenth. At the outset of the race Ms Kerton was content to drop the gelding in and track to the inside as she had been instructed to do so. However she then continued in last place without making any effort to close on the other runners until the two furlong pole. She then made a weak appearance of trying to improve her position although she did not make any notable attempt to drive the gelding forward into the wide gap that appeared on the rails. Her ride demonstrated a failure to make any real effort to allow the gelding to obtain the best possible place. Again, the Stewards did not have access to the detailed betting information before the Panel. The Stewards held an enquiry and on this occasion found her in breach of Rule (B)59.3 and suspended her for 10 days.
2. The Betting
2.1 In both races very significant and unusual bets were placed by individuals either on Betfair or Betdaq accounts. The evidence before the Panel showed contact between Prodromou and the individuals concerned making the bets. There was evidence of direct contact with Filippos Sergides, Stuart Compton and Alexander Starret and evidence of indirect contact linking Prodromou with John Hogan and Stuart Compton.
3. Filippos Sergides
3.1 Mr Sergides was living at Prodromou’s yard at the time of the races. He was a family friend and the son of a Cypriot bookmaker. He was a Betfair account holder. Mr Sergides did not attend the Enquiry or provide his telephone records to the BHA. The Panel was informed that Mr Sergides layed the horse because he did not rate the jockey and as a result of what he had seen in the yard. He felt the horse was small and unremarkable. The Panel did not believe this account.
3.2 Of more significance in the Panel’s view was that on the day of the race Prodromou called Mr Sergides. The call was timed at 1.33pm just before the delayed start. The call lasted 25 seconds. From Betfair’s records Mr Sergides started lay betting TIMETEAM (IRE) at 1.33pm at the time of the call. Moreover, Mr Sergides made his first ever lay bet in the place market. Until then, the account had 534 recorded bets since it had been opened in November 2009; none of the lay bets until TIMETEAM (IRE) were in the place market. A risk of £2,420 was taken to win £515. In the Panel’s view the call from Prodromou to Mr Sergides at the very moment Mr Sergides started laying the horse just prior to the off, following a pattern of betting activity that he had never adopted before, led them to conclude that this was a corrupt and fraudulent act by Mr Sergides using Inside Information obtained from Prodromou to obtain an unfair advantage.
4. John Hogan
4.1 Mr Hogan was a one-time haulier and operator of a Betdaq account in the name of Denise Hogan. Mr Hogan was interviewed by BHA Investigators as part of the Enquiry. The evidence before the Enquiry was that Mr Hogan is known to Mr Compton one of the other perpetrators of this conspiracy and the Panel concluded it was through that route that Mr Hogan received the Inside Information that facilitated the commission of a corrupt and fraudulent act. The Betdaq account which Mr Hogan controlled was opened on 1 December 2009. He had not placed a bet before laying TIMETEAM (IRE) in the place market on 22 January 2010. The liability on the account in respect of the bet on TIMETEAM (IRE) was £8,289 and made a profit of £2,600. The lay bet was by some way the largest liability taken in the place market on either Betdaq or Betfair. The Panel concluded that Mr Hogan had made advance plans for his lay bets on TIMETEAM (IRE). The Panel concluded that the extraordinary bet was placed with the benefit of Inside Information. The Panel rejected any possibility that the bet was motivated by skill or luck and the account of the events given by Mr Hogan to the Investigators was false and untrue. Indeed, Mr Hogan asserted that he layed the horse because it had not won before; it had.
5. Stuart Compton
5.1 Mr Compton was the one-time owner of TRIP SWITCH and operator of a Betdaq account in his own name. On 29 October 2009 Mr Compton bought TRIP SWITCH at Tattersall’s for the price of 1,000 guineas.
5.2 In both of the races in question Mr Compton placed exceptional and successful lay bets. The Panel concluded that he had received Inside Information in respect of these races from Prodromou and Mr Sergides . In respect of TIMETEAM (IRE), Mr Compton risked £1,983 to win £890 in the place market and in respect of TRIP SWITCH he risked £1,426 to win £200 in the place market. His Betdaq account had only been opened on the 13 January 2010 and the Panel concluded, as with Mr Hogan, that it had been opened for the purposes of a planned corrupt and fraudulent act in respect of the races. The Panel noted that the liabilities incurred in respect of these races were significantly in excess of the maximum previous liability which was £13.80. There was no explanation from Mr Compton as to the exceptional basis for the bets that he undertook. Mr Compton was a known associate of Mr Sergides and evidence before the Panel demonstrated shared computer use between the two individuals. Mr Compton was also known to Prodromou having sold TRIP SWITCH to him; the background to this sale is set out in more details below. The Panel concluded that Mr Compton’s association with Prodromou and Mr Sergides gave him the opportunity to access Inside Information and formed the basis of his ability to place the corrupt lay bets on the races in question.
6. Alexander Starret
6.1 Mr Starret’s case was different in substance from those of Messrs Sergides, Hogan and Compton in that he was a self-styled professional gambler. Mr Starret assisted the BHA Investigators and provided them with his telephone records. It was common ground before the Enquiry that Mr Starret had met Prodromou when horse racing in Cyprus and subsequent to that had befriended him and kept in regular contact with him. Mr Starret’s Betfair account placed a large lay bet on the TIMETEAM (IRE) race. Mr Starret was, of habit, a gambler who placed bets in running. Of the 28,182 bets placed on the account between July 2002 and January 2010, when his account was suspended by Betfair, 22,920 of the bets were placed in running. In what was a very unusual bet for the account, Mr Starret made a significant pre-race lay bet on TIMETEAM (IRE) in the win and place markets on 22 January 2010. His liability in the win market was £4,141 and its profit was £1,011. This lay liability was his seventh largest when in running bets are removed from an analysis of his account.
6.2 In fact analysis of his account showed that Mr Starret had only placed 26 pre-race lay bets from 1 January 2009. The TIMETEAM (IRE) bet clearly stood out as the largest lay liability; £1,011 being nearly twice as large as the next largest lay volume of £476. The profit on TIMETEAM (IRE) for Mr Starret was £1,272 while the combined profit of the other 24 lay bets was only £225.
6.3 What was highly significant in the Panel’s view alongside the unusual pre-race betting patterns was that on the day of the race in question Prodromou called Mr Starret at 11.36am just after Mr Starret had started to bet his usual pre-race small sums. Following the call Mr Starret went on to place, for him an extraordinary line of betting where he chased odds and then did not bet in running.
6.4 At the Enquiry and in response to questions put to him by the BHA Investigators Mr Starret said that the telephone call from Prodromou was for the purposes of enquiring as to whether he would be joining him for lunch at Lingfield, Prodromou previously having issued an invitation to this effect. Mr Starret lives in Cheltenham. In view of the distances involved and the time of travel the Panel considered it inconceivable that this was a truthful explanation.
6.5 The Panel carefully considered Mr Starret’s explanation for the lack of ‘in-race’ betting on this occasion as the gelding was positioned so far in the rear of the field. The Panel also reminded itself that Mr Starret had co-operated with the BHA but concluded that did not of itself render him innocent of the charges. The unusual betting patterns coinciding with the call from Prodromou led the Panel to conclude that the betting on this race by Mr Starret was a direct result of him possessing Inside Information. It had been provided to him by Prodromou and facilitated the commission of a corrupt and fraudulent act in his betting on the race.
7. George Prodromou
7.1 At the outset of the Enquiry Prodromou admitted using his Betfair account to place lay bets on a horse that he trained called MISTER FROSTY (IRE). This occurred on two occasions; on 18 December 2009 where Prodromou risked £180 (of which £120 was placed in running) and on 15 January 2010 when he risked £60. This breach was uncovered during the course of the investigation into wider issues surrounding the running of TIMETEAM (IRE) and TRIP SWITCH.
7.2 As to the other races, as noted above Prodromou was the owner and trainer of both the horses. From the telephone records obtained for the purposes of this Enquiry it was demonstrated that he was in contact with Mr Starret and Mr Sergides prior to the off at Lingfield on 22 January, 2010. Both telephone calls resulted in significant and extraordinary lay betting activity against TIMETEAM (IRE). On the 27 January 2010 Prodromou was also in contact with Mr Sergides, at 1.01 following which Mr Compton, a known associate of Mr Sergides, commenced a series of lay bets against the gelding on his Betdaq account.
7.3 In reaching its conclusions against Prodromou, the Panel has had the opportunity to review the transcripts of the interviews undertaken by BHA Investigators on 26 February 2010 and 17 September 2010 and also see Prodromou give evidence and ask him questions. The Panel did not find him a reliable witness. His answers to questions were inconsistent and on occasions incredulous. On a number of significant issues, the Panel did not find Prodromou to be a witness who provided truthful evidence.
7.4 In any event, taking Prodromou at his word, the evidence he provided to the Panel about the approach he took to handling Inside Information demonstrated that he had scant regard for the principles which should be observed by trainers. He spoke openly of sharing his opinion of his horses with punters and admitted sharing his opinions in particular on TIMETEAM (IRE) with a bettor in Cyprus. From his own evidence he also allowed Mr Sergides access to his Betfair account.
7.5 The Panel did not believe Prodromou’s account as to his assertion that he did not know Mr Compton. Prodromou asserted that Mr Compton had sold TRIP SWITCH to Prodromou’s painter and decorator, Mr Walters. Prodromou asserted that Mr Walters soon found that he could not afford to pay the training fees for the horse and subsequently it was sold on to Prodromou. The Panel felt this story did not have any basis in truth and concluded that Mr Compton had sold the horse to Prodromou. The reason he invented the story of the prior sale to his decorator was to try and demonstrate he had no association with one of the conspirators in this Enquiry.
7.6 The Panel also disbelieved Prodromou as to the alleged reasons for his calls to Mr Sergides and Mr Starret on the day of the TIMETEAM (IRE) race. In respect of Mr Sergides, Prodromou called him at 1.33pm for 25 seconds. That is the identical time that Mr Sergides placed his first ever lay bet in the place market. Prodromou’s assertion that the telephone call was to arrange to pick his children up from school minutes before the off on a delayed start where his horse was running was, in the Panel’s view, simply untrue. The Panel believe that it was during the course of this call that Mr Sergides came into possession of the Inside Information that allowed him to make his corrupt and fraudulent lay bets.
7.7 Likewise the call to Mr Starret on the day of the TIMETEAM (IRE) race at 11.36am where it was asserted by Prodromou that he phoned to arrange for Mr Starret to meet him for lunch at Lingfield. The Panel did not believe this was a genuine arrangement. Just after the call had finished Mr Starret went on to place an extraordinary bet for him, he chased the odds and risked a large amount for him on the race. The Panel concluded that Mr Starret learnt of the Inside Information as to the prospects of TIMETEAM (IRE) during that call and went on to use the information as demonstrated in his unusual betting pattern on the race.
7.8 Having drawn these conclusions, the Panel also went on to assess whether it considered Prodromou to be a determined conspirator or alternatively someone who was careless with the information he provided to others and did not pay proper heed to the strictures on him as a trainer concerning the use of Inside Information.
7.9 The Panel’s view of Prodromou is that he was reckless in his approach regarding the use of Inside Information. He is clearly an amiable and well-liked individual but in the Panel’s view one who was far too free to express his opinions on horses without proper forethought as to the consequences. The Panel’s view is that Prodromou told punters about the planned rides for TIMETEAM (IRE) and TRIP SWITCH.
7.10 The Panel is sure that Prodromou’s instructions to Ms Kerton in both races were to give the horse a gentle ride at the back of the field. He knew she would agree to his instructions. She was a moderate jockey with few rides and reliant on Prodromou for her race riding opportunities. It was the first time TIMETEAM (IRE) had raced for his yard and the third for TRIP SWITCH. The Panel believe in the course of his conversations with others he passed information about the prospects of the geldings to Mr Sergides and Mr Starret following which Mr Hogan and Mr Compton learnt of the potential for a “sure” lay bet on the exchanges. Prodromou put forward no positive explanation for the betting or for the ride given by Ms Kerton that was sustainable in the Panel’s view. In the light of these findings the Panel had no hesitation in concluding that Prodromou was guilty of a breach of Rules (A)41.2 and (C)45.4.1 in addition to the finding made following his admission as to the breach of Rule (C)64.1.
8. Charlotte Kerton
8.1 As noted at the outset of the findings above, the Panel found Ms Kerton’s riding in respect of both races to be a clear breach of the Rules. Ms Kerton did not comply with her obligation to ride and to be seen to ride the horse on its merits and in the videos of the races her lack of effort is in stark contrast with those of the other jockeys. It is clear from analysing her rides that Ms Kerton was dependent on Prodromou for her rides and it is clear from her form as a jockey that these were not merited. The Panel concluded that Ms Kerton agreed to ride the two horses other than on their merit in return for continue reward from Prodromou, namely, being given further rides on his horses. The Panel is mindful that its conclusions are more severe than those found by the Stewards on the day but has reminded itself that it is in possession of significantly more information which allows it to fairly draw a much harsher conclusion.
9.1 Having reached these findings the Panel went on to consider the penalty in respect of each of the individuals. For the purposes of the unlicensed individuals namely, Messrs Sergides, Hogan, Compton and Starret the Panel reminded itself of the recommended sanctions set out in the Guide to Procedures and Penalties 2011 for a finding of a corrupt or fraudulent practice, where the recommended penalty was to exclude for a range of between 6 months and 10 years with an entry point of 3 years.
9.2 In respect of Mr Sergides, Mr Starret and Mr Hogan the Panel concluded that the correct approach to sentencing was to exclude each of these individuals indefinitely from 24 February 2012 and to direct that no application should be considered by the BHA to remove the exclusion for a period of 3 years. The Panel found no mitigating features on the facts to alter their view of this issue. With respect to Mr Compton the Panel concluded it should be more severe since his actions covered both the race on TRIP SWITCH as well as TIMETEAM (IRE) and in respect of the repeated corrupt and fraudulent behaviour the Panel determined to exclude him indefinitely from 24 February 2012 and direct that he should not be permitted to apply to the BHA for the lifting of the exclusion for a period of 5 years.
9.3 With respect to Ms Kerton, she is not currently licensed as a jockey by the BHA and since the Panel cannot suspend or otherwise interfere with a licence it concluded that the best approach was to make a direction to the BHA that it should refuse to consider granting Ms Kerton a licence for a period of time. The Panel reminded itself of the penalties as set out in the 2011 Guide and, in particular, the penalty for a breach of Rule (B)59.2 where a jockey deliberately fails to ride a horse to obtain the best possible placing for personal reward. The entry point is disqualification for 8 years with a range given of 5 to 25 years. The Panel considered that Promodrou’s continued use of Ms Kerton in spite of her ability as a jockey was clear evidence of a reward for Ms Kerton for following instructions in the races in question where her riding ensured the horses were not placed.
9.4 The Panel considered Ms Kerton’s case with a degree of sympathy mindful that she appeared wholly dependant on Prodromou for her rides. That in itself does not excuse her from her breaches of the Rules. If a jockey is contracted by a trainer to ride and then asked to act in breach of the Rules the jockey should refuse to take the engagement. The Panel is mindful that this may appear harsh but to find otherwise would excuse jockeys from their obligations to observe the Rules of Racing. Having made this finding, the Panel also recognised Ms Kerton’s susceptibility to be compromised in the circumstances where she had few rides. The Panel did not find that Ms Kerton had received any financial rewards for her rides; if that had been the case it would have been significantly harsher in the level of penalty awarded.
9.5 The Panel is mindful of the direction of the Guide that any second offence in respect of the same sub-Rule should generally be provided with a penalty that is double that for a first offence. Having carefully considered this direction, the entry point and Ms Kerton’s circumstances the Panel concluded that the appropriate direction to give to the BHA was to not consider an application from Ms Kerton for a licence for 6 years from 24 February 2012.
9.6 In respect of Prodromou the Panel considered the three breaches separately but concluded that the appropriate approach to follow is for the penalties to run concurrently. In respect of the breach of Rule (C)64.1 where he placed lay bets on MISTER FROSTY (IRE), the Panel determined this should be dealt with by an 18 month disqualification. The Rules preventing a trainer from laying a horse under his care have been well publicised. The fact that the lay bets were part of a series of bets is no excuse; the BHA has given unambiguous guidance on this point.
9.7 In respect of Prodromou’s breach of Rule (A)41.2 and the reckless provision of Inside Information to friends and colleagues the Panel determined that this should be recognised with a 3year disqualification. Again, the BHA has provided unambiguous guidance to trainers as to how to deal with Inside Information. Prodromou’s cavalier approach to the subject is inexcusable. For the racing public to be able to bet with confidence, it is incumbent upon trainers to ensure their horses are raced on their merits and that trainers observe the Rules set down on Inside Information. Prodromou did neither.
9.8 The Panel consider that the most serious breach for which Prodromou falls to be censured is in respect of Rule (C)45.4.1. He gave Ms Kerton instructions not to ride TIMETEAM (IRE) and TRIP SWITCH on their merits knowing that she was compromised in her position as a jockey needing rides and she would follow his instructions in order to keep her favour with him. This is one of the worst types of abuse of a trainer preying upon the insecurities of a moderate jockey and Prodromou falls to be sentenced harshly for it. There are two races to be considered here, the entry point for each is 8 years with a direction that the penalty should be double that for a first offence. The Panel do consider there is mitigation to be acknowledged on Prodromou’s behalf; as noted above he was not a determined conspirator seeking large financial rewards. But he did give directions for his horses not to be run on their merits and promulgated this information so as to allow corrupt and fraudulent betting activity. In all the circumstances the Panel believes the correct period of time to disqualify Prodromou is 8 years from 24 February 2012 until 23 February 2020. The Panel is mindful that this is a harsh penalty as compared with the punters who formed part of the conspiracy but these events could never occur but for a trainer who breaches the Rules of Racing and moreover, as in this case, the Rule which goes to the heart of horseracing; namely that when a horse races a trainer ensures that it does so on its true merits.
The Panel is mindful that Promodrou will have horses in his yard that will need to be transferred in the light of his disqualification. The Panel directs that Prodromou is allowed 48 hours from the date of receipt of notification of this disqualification to contact his owners and to arrange for their horses to be transferred elsewhere.