The Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority met on 30 November and 1 December 2011 to enquire into allegations against Elliot Cooper, a licensed trainer and Mr Richard Bowe.
The Topics for Inquiry against Elliot Cooper were as follows:-
1. Is Cooper in breach of Rule 243 of the Orders and Rules by communicating Inside Information to Mr Bowe for reward about MASAFI and/or various horses trained by Jonjo O’Neill, which were the subject of lay bets placed by Mr Bowe in the period between June 2005 and November 2006 (The O’Neill Horses), none of which were owned by Mr Bowe?
2. Is Cooper in breach of Rule 220(i) of the Orders and Rules by aiding and abetting the commission of a corrupt and/or fraudulent practice by Mr Bowe (namely placing lay bets on MASAFI and/or on all or some of The O’Neill Horses with the benefit of Inside Information, in breach of Rule 201(v)) by communicating Inside Information to Mr Bowe knowing that, or being reckless as to whether or contemplating as a real possibility that Mr Bowe would use it for such a corrupt and/or fraudulent practice?
The Topics for Inquiry against Mr Bowe were as follows:-
1. Is Mr Bowe in breach of Rule 201(v) of the Orders and Rules in that he committed a corrupt or fraudulent practice in relation to racing in Great Britain by laying MASAFI to lose and/or not be placed in the 2 June 2009 and 12 June 2009 Races with the benefit of Inside Information relating to MASAFI’s prospects in those races?
2. Is Mr Bowe in breach of Rule 201(v) of the Orders and Rules in that he committed a corrupt or fraudulent practice in relation to racing in Great Britain by laying all or some of The O’Neill Horses to lose and/or not be placed with the benefit of Inside Information relating to the prospects of The O’Neill Horses in the races?
3. Is Mr Bowe in breach of Rule 220(ix) of the Orders and Rules by causing Cooper to communicate to him Inside Information for reward about MASAFI and/or all or some of The O’Neill Horses, none of which was owned by Mr Bowe?
4. Pursuant to Rule 2(v), is Mr Bowe (in any event) liable to be excluded for failing to co-operate with the BHA’s investigation into his lay trading of MASAFI and The O’Neill Horses?
1. This case came to the attention of the BHA following a betting alert on 12 June 2009. This was called through to the Market Rasen Stewards by one of the BHA’s Betting Investigators. Suspicious betting patterns had emerged in relation to a horse called MASAFI which was due to run in the Rum & Rasen Claiming Hurdle over 2m 3f that day. The horse was to be ridden by Richard Johnson and was trained by Cooper.
2. A number of individuals had layed MASAFI to lose the race. Mr Bowe, Cooper’s cousin, risked £1,512.64 to win £373.90 in the place market. This suggested a considerable degree of confidence that the gelding would not be placed. In fact, the gelding was pulled up and Mr Bowe won £373.90.
3. Consequent upon this race Mr Bowe’s Betfair account was reviewed by the BHA. It revealed that Mr Bowe had also placed lay bets on MASAFI on 2 June 2009 when it ran in the John Wade Skip Hire Selling Hurdle (qualifier) over 2m 1f at Sedgefield. The gelding had also been ridden by Richard Johnson on that occasion and finished 9th of 12 runners – being sent off at 9/2, third favourite.
4. On 2 June 2009 Mr Bowe risked £1,066.40 to win £330 in the win market and a further £420 to win £500 in the place market.
5. What was striking about Mr Bowe’s betting was that, prior to 2 June 2009, he had not placed a bet on his Betfair account for approximately 16 months. On 2 June 2009, just over an hour before the race was due to start, a deposit of £1,500 was made into Mr Bowe’s Betfair account from which the two lay bets were placed.
6. Following the 12 June 2009 race Mr Bowe withdrew £2,373.71 from his Betfair account on 15 June 2009.
7. Mr Bowe has failed to co-operate with the BHA’s investigation and in fact has not substantively responded to any of the BHA’s communications. Mr Bowe’s cousin, Cooper, who trained MASAFI, has co-operated with the BHA’s investigations.
8. Cooper has been a licensed trainer since 29 April 2009 and at the time was the youngest ever licensed trainer. He has been employed by Mr George Campbell training from the establishment known as Cumberland Lodge in Cumbria. The race on 2 June 2009 at Sedgefield was, in fact, the occasion of Cooper’s first ever runner as a trainer. Cooper was interviewed twice by BHA Investigators in connection with the subject-matter to the Inquiry. At the time of the interviews he denied passing any Inside Information to Mr Bowe or discussing any horses’ chances with him. He asserted that he was not aware that Mr Bowe had placed lay bets on MASAFI.
9. In consequence of these events, Mr Bowe’s Betfair account was carefully scrutinised. The review and analysis of the account revealed a very strong bias for Mr Bowe betting on (and, in particular, laying) horses trained by Jonjo O’Neill in 2005 and 2006. The period of betting activity coincided with Cooper working at and residing at Jackdaws Castle. There was a cessation in Mr Bowe’s betting activity around the time Cooper left Jonjo O’Neill’s employment. Analysis of Mr Bowe’s Betfair account during that period revealed that of Mr Bowe’s 100 largest liability lays, 77 of them were horses trained by Jonjo O’Neill. Of those 77 lay bets, 50 were profitable (i.e. the horse did not win or place) and 47 were made in the place market. Most of the bets were matched at relatively short prices; 23 were matched at even money or shorter whilst 64 were matched at odds of less than 3/1.
10. After November 2006 the significant focus on horses trained by Jonjo O’Neill stopped but the total number of bets placed increased. There was a two month period at the end of 2009 which was a very successful period for Mr Bowe’s betting activities. During this period he focussed on Jonjo O’Neill trained horses again albeit to a lesser extent than in 2006.
11. Having inquired into these matters over the course of the two days and heard evidence from Mr Tim Miller and Mr Tom Chignell on behalf of the BHA and Cooper, his partner, Ms Dee Caruthers, Mr Anton Frisbee and Mr Thomas Hogg on behalf of Cooper (who was legally represented by Robin Leach), the Panel made the following determinations.
In respect of Cooper the following matters were found proved namely that Cooper was in breach of:
- Rule 243 of the Orders and Rules by communicating Inside Information to Mr Bowe for reward about MASAFI.
- Rule 220(i) of the Orders and Rules by aiding and abetting the commission of a corrupt and fraudulent practice by Mr Bowe namely placing lay bets on MASAFI with the benefit of Inside Information in breach of Rule 201(v) by communicating Inside Information to Mr Bowe knowing that Mr Bowe would use it for such a corrupt and fraudulent practice.
In respect of Mr Bowe the Panel found the following matters proved namely that he was in breach of:-
- Rule 201(v) of the Orders and Rules in that he committed a corrupt or fraudulent practice in relation to racing in Great Britain by laying MASAFI to lose and not be placed on 2 and 12 June 2009 with the benefit of Inside Information relating to MASAFI’s prospects in the races.
- Rule 220(ix) of the Orders and Rules of racing in that he caused Cooper to communicate to him Inside Information for reward about MASAFI.
- Failing to co-operate with the BHA’s investigation into his lay trading of MASAFI and The O’Neill Horses.
12. The basis of the Panel’s findings were as follows:–
13. Dealing with the lay betting issues on The O’Neill Horses, the Panel was not persuaded by the BHA’s evidence in respect of this betting activity. The Panel were not convinced that Mr Bowe was in possession of Inside Information when he made the lay bets on the O’Neill horses. Mr Bowe clearly had an interest in the yard but that of itself did not make him guilty of an offence. What was more telling in the Panel’s mind was how unsuccessful Mr Bowe was during this period; in fact his top liability lay bets on non-O’Neill horses were more successful during this period.
14. The evidence of association of Mr Bowe with Cooper during the period 05/06 was not of itself proof that Cooper was passing Inside Information to Mr Bowe. It was clear that Mr Bowe knew a number of people at O’Neill’s yard and would visit and spend time with them during the period when Cooper was working there.
15. His lack of success also contrasted markedly with a two month period of betting in 2009 when Mr Bowe’s betting again focussed on O’Neill horses for a period of two months during which time he made a profit of £6,202. During this period Cooper was not residing at Jackdaws Castle.
16. In relation to MASAFI the Panel had a very different view. At the point Mr Bowe backed MASAFI no bets had been placed from his Betfair account on UK horseracing for a period of 16 months.
17. The degree of confidence that Mr Bowe showed in making the bets on 2 and 12 June 2009 was a stark feature of the evidence. In particular, the combined liabilities on 2 June represented the second largest risk ever taken by Mr Bowe on his account when comparing it with the other 1,553 lay bets he had made.
18. In relation to the 12 June race, Mr Bowe’s liability in the place market was his second largest single liability ever placed on the account. In the Panel’s view, his activity clearly demonstrated a degree of confidence that he did not normally demonstrate in his betting activity. His average lay liability from his bets was £71.35. Combined liabilities of £1,486.40 on 2 June and £1,512.64 on 12 June demonstrated an assuredness that the horse would not win or be placed on each occasion. The Panel concluded that such betting activity could only have been based upon the possession of Inside Information.
19. Alongside this betting activity the Panel also took account of the evidence in relation to the fitness of the horse that was adduced at the Stewards’ Enquiry at Market Rasen into the running of MASAFI. Cooper’s assertion before the Panel was that MASAFI was fit and ready to race. Evidence was also adduced from Mr Hogg on Cooper’s behalf as to the work that he rode on MASAFI.
20. The Panel was more persuaded by the evidence of Johnson at the Stewards’ Enquiry. He told the Stewards that with the horse being very tired he did not want to jump the second last for safety reasons. Johnson felt that the horse was a 2 miler and that he definitely needed the run on 2 June. In the light of the two race results and the assessment from Johnson the Panel concluded the horse had no realistic prospect of winning or being placed in June 2009 in the races and that Cooper knew this.
21. Additional probative evidence was adduced by the BHA in relation to the contact between Cooper and Mr Bowe on the day of the race. Cooper did not dispute the fact that he and Mr Bowe were in frequent contact with each other. Cooper’s telephone records demonstrate a significant telephone contact between Cooper and Mr Bowe on 1 and 2 June 2009 and although no communication was evident from Cooper’s telephone records on 11 or 12 June (no records were obtained from Mr Bowe’s telephone). There was contact on 14 and 15 June which was the day that Mr Bowe withdrew the sum of £2,374 from his Betfair account.
22. It was this evidence together with the more general evidence of Mr Bowe’s association with Cooper that led the Panel to conclude that Cooper was responsible for passing Inside Information to Mr Bowe as to MASAFI’s prospects of success in the June races.
23. The Panel also had to consider the question as to whether Cooper received any reward. The Panel acknowledges that it has not seen any bank statements or other evidence of cash being passed between Mr Bowe and Cooper. That said the Panel did receive evidence as to the financial circumstances of Cooper and it was evident that his existence training for Mr Campbell left him in financially fragile circumstances. The sums of money which were acquired by Mr Bowe as a result of his lay betting activity on MASAFI were relatively significant. The Panel do not believe that Cooper would have risked his training licence and livelihood without some benefit being conferred upon him.
24. The Panel concluded that Mr Bowe (who also on the evidence before the Panel did not have large sums of money to risk) only felt confident to lay MASAFI in the manner in which he did because of the fact that Cooper had passed him Inside Information. There must have been an agreement between the men for this to happen and that must have been consequent upon some reward for Cooper. It is incredulous to consider this was a mere gift of information.
25. In respect of Mr Bowe the Panel has no hesitation in determining that he should be excluded indefinitely. It also ordered that no application to lift his exclusion should be accepted for 10 years.
26. His behaviour in committing a corrupt and fraudulent offence and thereafter his refusal to co-operate with the reasonable efforts of the BHA to investigate this matter underline the fact that such an individual should have no place in British racing. The very presence of such individuals on racecourses undermines the fabric and integrity that the sport should enjoy and racing should be protected from such malign influences.
27. In respect of Cooper, the Panel have reviewed the Guide to Procedures and Penalties both at the current date but also at the date of the offences.
28. At the time of the offence Rule 243 and 201(v) had an entry point penalty of 18 months. By the time of this Inquiry, the entry point is now 3 years. The BHA invited the Panel to consider the correct approach to the penalty would be to adopt the entry point as at the date of sentence.
29. On this occasion the Panel have determined to exercise its discretion to deal with the matters in relation to the old penalty structure. There has been a significant delay in bringing this case, none of which has been attributed to or blamed upon Cooper. He has, through no fault of his own, been involved in a matter where other lines of inquiry have been pursued and the Panel do not believe it is right he should be indirectly penalised for that. The Panel has therefore determined that in respect of the Rule 243 and 201(v) offences to treat the correct entry point penalty as that set out in the Guide to Procedures and Penalties 2009, namely 18 months.
30. The Panel has also considered the mitigation put forward on Cooper’s behalf as to whether this should affect the entry point penalty in any way. The Panel has accepted the submissions made on Cooper’s behalf that he was very young and inexperienced at the time of these offences. Indeed he was the youngest ever trainer licensed in the UK. The Panel has concerns as to whether Cooper, in view of his inexperience, was given sufficient support and education when beginning his training career. It is clear he was working at a yard where he received little support from the owner. The Panel has also taken into account Cooper’s current personal circumstances which are precarious and his evidence as to his recent lack of payment by the yard’s owner. The Panel noted in any event the likelihood that he will be out of a job and therefore without a house in the near future with a partner and dependant 5 year old child to look after.
31. Having noted these matters with some sympathy, the Panel cannot ignore the fact that Cooper passed Inside Information for reward to another individual facilitating a corrupt and fraudulent practice to take place. Trainers have a responsibility and indeed are central to the continuity of integrity that must exist within British Horseracing to enable the public to have confidence when backing or laying horses on UK betting exchanges. Cooper’s actions undermine that trust.
32. Taking all these matters into account the Panel believe this matter can be properly dealt with by way of a 12 month disqualification from 20 December 2011 until 19 December 2012 inclusive.
33. The Panel is mindful of the hardship that this will bring to Cooper but believe any lesser penalty would fail to recognise the seriousness of the matters found proved. The Panel are also mindful that there are currently 10 horses being looked after by Cooper and therefore will allow him 48 hours from the date of receipt of notification of this disqualification to make arrangements with other licensed individuals to take responsibility and care for his horses in training.