Please find below a summary of the Disciplinary Panel’s findings including penalty. The penalties to take effect after the Panel have given full reasons, including reasons for penalty, and the period for appealing (7 days) has lapsed in accordance with Appendix J.
Paul Blockley has been found in breach of Rule 201(v) in that he conspired with other persons to commit a corrupt or fraudulent practice.
one count of Rule 155(ii) in that he failed to give or cause to be given to Dean McKeown such instructions as were necessary to ensure that HITS ONLY MONEY ran on its merits. He has been declared a disqualified person for 2 ½ years.
Dean McKeown has been found in breach of Rule 201(v)
four counts of Rule 157 in that he intentionally failed to ensure that ONLY IF I LAUGH, SMITH N ALLAN OILS, HITS ONLY CASH and HITS ONLY MONEY ran on their merits. He has been declared a disqualified person for 4 years.
Clive Whiting has been found in breach of Rule 201(v)
220(vii)(b) in that he misled BHA investigators. He has been declared a disqualified person for 8 years.
Derek Lovatt, David Wright, Marcus Reeder, Nicholas Rook, Martyn Wakefield & Vincent Whiting have all been found in breach of Rule 201(v). For full details of penalties, please see Paragraph 70 in the Decisions and Reasons below.
Notes for Editors:
1. The Panel for the enquiry was Tim Charlton QC (Chairman), Patrick Hibbert-Foy and Sandra Arkwright.
DECISION AND REASONS
1. On 29 September 2008, the Disciplinary Panel of the BHA began an enquiry into allegations that nine individuals were in breach of the Rules of Racing because of their conduct in relation to eleven races which took place between March 2004 and December 2005. A schedule annexed to these reasons identifies the horses and races concerned. The BHA’s case was presented by Mr Louis Weston. Dean McKeown represented himself but had the informal assistance during the hearing of Christopher Stewart-Moore, solicitor, in preparing a written statement and submission. Paul Blockley was represented by Graeme McPherson QC (instructed by Richard Brooks of Withy King). Martyn Wakefield was represented by Stephen Wood, solicitor. Clive Whiting, Derek Lovatt, and Marcus Reeder attended the enquiry and represented themselves. Vinnie Whiting, Nicholas Rook and David Wright did not attend.
2. The main allegation was that all were involved in a conspiracy to exploit inside information about Blockley’s runners in the eleven races which were all successfully layed to lose on Betfair. The bets in question risked a total of £182,541, but in fact, because every bet was a winner, the overall profit was £61,909.
3. The roles said to have been played by the nine individuals were of course different. Blockley trained all of the horses which were layed. He was said to have provided inside information about their prospects to Clive Whiting or to his brother Vinnie Whiting, knowing that it would be used to lay the horses, and he was further alleged to be complicit in deliberately bad rides given to his horses on four of the eleven occasions. McKeown was the jockey who rode for Blockley in eight of the eleven races, including all four of those said to be non-triers. He too was said to have provided inside information about prospects for his rides to the Whitings (and in one instance Nicholas Rook), knowing that lay bets would be placed as a result. It was also suggested that inside information provided by McKeown included indications that he would ride to lose if necessary.
4. The remaining seven individuals were all alleged to be party to a corrupt enterprise because they were said to have had involvement with the placing of lay bets knowing that the trainer (and jockey in eight of the eleven cases) did not expect or even intend the horses to win. Clive Whiting did not himself have a Betfair account but was alleged to have had control over the lay bets placed through two accounts operated by Rook and to have been a supplier of information which led the others (ie Wright, Lovatt, Reeder, Wakefield and Vinnie Whiting, all of whom had Betfair accounts) to lay the Blockley-trained horses in the eleven races.
5. If the conspiracy summarised above was not found to have existed, Blockley and McKeown faced an alternative allegation of breach of Rule 243 which outlaws the provision of inside information to non-owners for reward. McKeown was accused of having failed to ride four of his mounts on their merits in races 2, 6, 7 and 11 of the suspect races – in breach of Rule 157 – while Blockley was alleged to be in breach of Rule 155(ii) because he could not demonstrate that McKeown had failed to follow instructions.
6. Some of the other seven individuals faced other charges of breach of the Rules of Racing, as follows:
i. Clive Whiting was accused of breaches of Rule 247 (which is designed to stop owners laying horses they own) over races 2, 7 and 10 where he was the registered owner of the horse in question. He was also accused of a breach of Rule 220(viii) for misleading BHA investigators during interviews when he denied knowing of Rook’s lay betting activities.
ii. Each of Clive Whiting, Rook, Lovatt and Wright faced alternative allegations of breach of Rule 220(ix) if the conspiracy charges against them failed.
7. Eight of the nine individuals charged with these breaches indicated that they rejected the allegations. Rook did not acknowledge receipt of the documents sent to him or suggest any defence. He did not attend the enquiry. Neither did Wright nor Vinnie Whiting, but they both wrote beforehand to say that they rejected all allegations. Clive Whiting, Lovatt, Reeder and Wakefield did attend, did give evidence, and each argued that they were not guilty of any of the breaches charged. However, during his evidence, Clive Whiting admitted that he had lied during his first interview with BHA investigators when denying knowledge of Rook’s lay betting activities.
The conspiracy charge – Rule 201(v)
8. Rule 201 provides –
“Any person may be declared a disqualified person or otherwise penalised by the [BHA] Stewards in accordance with their powers under Rule 2 of these Rules who: –
(v) is guilty of or conspires with any other person for the commission of, or connives at any other person being guilty of, any corrupt or fraudulent practice in relation to racing in this or any other country…”
9. It was the BHA’s case that involvement in lay betting on the basis of inside information (particularly if that information included some indication that the horse in question would if necessary be stopped) was corrupt, because it gave those concerned an illicit advantage over people who were on the other side of their bets. That proposition seemed plainly correct to the Panel.
10. But what constitutes “involvement” in such lay betting? So far as McKeown and Blockley are concerned, the BHA said that it was enough to show that they were providing inside information in the knowledge that this would be used for lay betting. On Blockley’s behalf, Mr McPherson QC essentially accepted this formulation while emphasising that actual knowledge was required and that it was inadequate to establish participation in a conspiracy to show merely that his client ought to have realised what was going on. McKeown challenged this analysis – he pointed out that as a jockey was fully entitled to pass inside information to an owner, it could not be corrupt if that information was passed to and used by someone other than an owner. He further suggested that the BHA’s use of the Rule 201(v) conspiracy allegation was an attempt to avoid having to prove that money came his way in exchange for the information, as a Rule 243 charge requires.
11. To resolve this argument, the Panel first of all sets out its understanding of the basic scheme of the Rules relating to inside information. First, it is clear that a jockey or trainer can provide to an owner inside information – i.e. information which is not publicly available. Indeed, owners and licence-holders would ordinarily regard that as one of the services that training and riding fees are paid for. But there are critical limits on what can be done by an owner with that information. If he interprets it as positive information, he can keep it private and use it to bet on his horse to win or place. When he does this, his action is not objectionable because he is taking a stance which is necessarily consistent with his jockey’s and trainer’s obligations to see that the horse is ridden on its merits. If he interprets the information negatively, the owner is subject to a blanket ban on laying it to lose (Rule 247) for the obvious reason that it undermines the integrity of the sport if owners (or indeed other connections such as the trainer) are betting to lose. If an owner places lay bets on his horse, he is taking a stance which is inconsistent with his jockey’s and trainer’s obligations to see that the horse is ridden on its merits. Of course, the jockey or trainer may not know that the owner is doing this, and in this circumstance they will have done nothing wrong. But if they know that lay betting is to follow on from their provision of negative information about a horse’s chances, then that is plainly contrary to the interests of the sport.
12. An owner can of course make his inside information public at any stage (whether it is positive or negative) and leave it to the public to take whatever betting stance they want in the light of that information. But an owner or any other person who has inside information cannot pass it to others for the purpose of enabling them to lay the horse to lose. That is objectionable for the same reason that it is objectionable for owners to lay their horses to lose themselves. Therefore, the Panel concluded, it is right to regard a joint enterprise to exploit inside information through lay betting as a corrupt practice. It is not necessary to prove that a reward flowed back to the provider of the information in such circumstances, though it is not difficult to conclude that rewards will have changed hands particularly where there have been repeated instances of inspired “tipping”.
Approach to the allegations
13. As the case put forward by the BHA was one of dishonesty, the Panel proceeded on the basis that it had to have clear and cogent evidence before concluding that such allegations were made out.
14. There were a number of features of the case which provided extra ground for caution. The BHA said that in four of his eight rides, McKeown had failed to ride to win or obtain the best possible placing. Yet it was only for the last of these races that a full set of recordings of the race was available. For the others, there was only the composite view available – i.e. an edited compilation from the original four or five separate recordings of a race. The Panel was told that Racetech do not keep the full recordings after a two-year period. Yet the investigation which led to this enquiry was active in 2006 (when interviews were conducted) and it was therefore surprising that steps were not taken promptly to preserve a full set of recordings for all the races. A similar position existed with regard to the tapes of Stewards’ Enquiries which were held after three of the races. These too were not preserved as they ought to have been. All that remained were the reports of the results of those Enquiries.
15. The lack of full sets of recordings and the lack of transcripts of Enquiries affected particularly the cases made against McKeown and Blockley. Not only did this have a potential effect on the strength of the BHA’s allegations against them, but it also created a risk that McKeown and Blockley were themselves deprived of material that could assist their defence. The Panel was very conscious of that risk when reaching their conclusions about the alleged “non-trier” races.
16. It is also important to record that all the individuals charged in this enquiry cooperated with the investigators’ requirements for interviews and for production of telephone records. This was certainly not a case (as some have been in the past) of foot-dragging over disclosure of records, which can give rise to inferences that something is being hidden.
The conspiracy allegation – overview
17. There were four strands to the evidence put before the Panel to justify the conspiracy charges: the betting records; the phone records; the interview transcripts; and the evidence of the four races where McKeown was said to have been a non-trier.
18. The relevant evidence from the interviews of the nine individuals and of the four alleged non-trier races is mostly considered later in these reasons. But to gain an overall picture of what was going on, it is useful for the Panel to state its findings about what emerges from the betting evidence and the evidence of contacts between the 9 individuals.
(a) Betting records
19. The betting evidence disclosed a number of striking features. It is necessary first to concentrate on what can be learned from the activity on the Wright account and the two Rook accounts with Betfair, since they were used with greater frequency in the eleven races than the others. Wright layed the Blockley-trained horses in nine of the eleven suspect races and the Rook accounts did so in six of them.
20. Wright’s Betfair account shows that the average liability risked was £194. Yet there were 23 lay bets where £3,000 or more was risked. Of these, a remarkable 10 out of 23 were lays of Blockley-trained horses. Indeed, six of the top seven lays on Wright’s account were Blockley-trained. McKeown rode six of the top 23 lays, far more than any other jockey. All those lay bets against Blockley-trained and McKeown-ridden horses were successful. A number of these bets were in the place market, at odds well in excess of what would be expected either from the on course or Betfair win prices. And when making lay place bets, this account frequently took a dominant share of the available place market on Betfair. Once this investigation began, the pattern of heavy betting against Blockley-trained or McKeown-ridden horses came to an abrupt end.
21. With Rook’s two main Betfair accounts, a similar pattern of concentration on Blockley-trained or McKeown-ridden horses is apparent. On one of the accounts, three of the top four lay bets were trained by Blockley, as were all three of the top lay bets on his other account.
22. This pattern of lay betting on these three accounts is sufficient to raise the inference, in the Panel’s view, that they were inspired by inside information, unless there is a good explanation to the contrary.
23. There were other sizeable lay bets placed by Reeder (just for race 1), by Wakefield (just for race 2), and by Lovatt (again just for race 2). As these were one-off bets, no pattern can be seen to emerge, so no presumption that they were placed in reliance on inside information arises. It is necessary to consider separately the explanations given to the Panel by Reeder, Wakefield and Lovatt of the reasons why their bets were struck.
24. Finally, there were three small lay bets on Vinnie Whiting’s account which again, because of their size, do not demonstrate any pattern and the question whether they were placed with inside knowledge needs to be evaluated separately.
25. The timelines prepared to illustrate contacts between the nine individuals on the days surrounding the eleven suspect races clearly show at a minimum that there were regular conversations in which inside information could have been passed to the various individuals who placed the lay bets. But does this material do any more than establish the opportunity to convey it? There was a concentration of calls between Clive Whiting and Wright and between Vinnie Whiting and Wright clustered around suspect race times but there was no similar concentration of any significance that was shown for contacts between others. That is significant because it tends to show that these calls were related to the lay betting on the Wright account rather than being innocent social or business exchanges. What the phone records generally do show is a timing of calls in relation to each other which is highly significant. The first suspect race – SKIP OF COLOUR at Lingfield on 19 March 2004 – is particularly striking. On the day of the race, a cascade of calls began at 11.10, when Blockley called Clive Whiting. Within seconds, Clive Whiting called Vinnie Whiting. Within seconds, Vinnie Whiting called Wright. Simultaneously, at 11.14, Clive Whiting called Reeder. Within a minute, Reeder began to place lay bets against SKIP OF COLOUR which was due to race in the 17.30 that day. Wright began laying SKIP OF COLOUR at 11.32. Similar cascades of calls occurred later in the afternoon, when Wright primed his Betfair account with a further £9,000 to enable him to continue lay betting.
26. It is inescapable from this and similar instances in relation to other races that there was a flow of information down the line starting at least with Blockley which caused the lay bets to be struck.
27. But there was another means of contact that is important for an overall understanding of what was happening. By early 2004, Clive Whiting had established in the boardroom of his company, Palmers, an informal club where he and other racing enthusiasts would watch racing and also gamble. Rook was there regularly – indeed for some time he was actually living in the boardroom. Vinnie Whiting was a regular attender. Wright was there sometimes and Lovatt used to go along in the early days. He stopped going towards the end of 2004 because he felt uncomfortable with some of the activities and arguments that occurred. He painted a picture of lay bets being placed by Rook on the new computer Clive Whiting had bought, and of Clive Whiting’s close involvement and funding of this. He described also the enthusiasm with which defeats of Clive Whiting-owned horses were sometimes received. And he heard calls after such races between Clive Whiting and persons he believed to be a jockey or trainer in which the message was “job done”. Though he stopped short of identifying the jockey or trainer concerned, it became clear to the Panel that these calls included contacts with Blockley. This was damning evidence that tied Clive Whiting into the lay betting and Blockley into the provision of information to enable it.
28. McKeown regularly rode work at Blockley’s training establishments over the period of the suspect races. He was the jockey of choice for horses of which Clive Whiting was the owner or part owner. Until mid-2005, he rode frequently for Blockley-trained horses owned by others. He therefore had a particular knowledge of horses that he rode both in work and in races which was inside information.
29. It was clear, and McKeown accepted, that he would pass this knowledge on to Clive Whiting and Vinnie Whiting in particular, and even, if asked, to their friends. Clive Whiting and Vinnie Whiting regularly went to Blockley’s yard when he trained at Southwell, and would press McKeown for information about horses (whether owned by Clive Whiting or not). McKeown freely gave information to them. The Panel was left in no doubt that this information was used by Clive Whiting and Vinnie Whiting to cause the lay bets to be placed. The critical question is whether McKeown knew that this was being done.
30. McKeown’s relationship with Clive Whiting was much closer than the normal professional relationship of a jockey with an owner for whom he rode regularly. They were friends and had business dealings. McKeown became in effect Clive Whiting’s racing adviser. At the end of 2005, Clive Whiting’s horses left Blockley’s yard. McKeown said this happened after Clive Whiting and Blockley’s relationship deteriorated because results were not good. As he said during interview, “at the end we did take the horses away”. His use of “we” in this quotation was not a slip of the tongue as he said in evidence – it was a revealing insight into the role he had come to play as adviser, perhaps even as informal manager, of Clive Whiting’s racing string. Given this background, the Panel was convinced that McKeown was fully aware that his input about the chances of the horses he rode in eight of the suspect races was being used for lay betting organised by Clive Whiting. Clive Whiting was not the type of character who would have kept those activities secret from McKeown.
31. Furthermore, the Panel’s findings about McKeown’s rides in the four alleged non-trier races led to the conclusion that McKeown was not just passing on knowledge he gained from his acquaintance with Blockley-trained horses to enable the lay betting. He was able to, and did give extra assurance and incentive for such betting – that he would if necessary ride to ensure that the bet succeeded.
32. The first of the alleged non-triers was in race 2 – ONLY IF I LAUGH at Southwell on 16 June 2004. The horse was strongly restrained by McKeown when the gates opened which caused it to rear. Though he explained that it had a light mouth, this was directly contradicted by Blockley’s evidence that it had a mouth like an iron bar. This restraint appeared more vigorous than was required by the riding instructions which Blockley said were to drop him out, settle him, and come with a late run. But the clearly objectionable feature of this ride came about 1 ¾ furlongs from the finish, when McKeown was about four lengths adrift of the eventual winner. He pretended to deliver a back-hander with his whip, but instead simply brought the whip down past the horse’s quarters. The Panel studied the video in great detail and with real care, and were sure that this was an air shot. It was recognised that the Stewards who held an enquiry on the day would have had the benefit of more camera angles than currently survive, and that they merely noted the explanations for the run without picking up that there had been an air shot. What was particularly revealing for the Panel was that McKeown was holding his whip at about the mid point of its length – i.e. half its length can be seen sticking out of the front of his right hand. McKeown’s assertion that he had made light contact was rejected. There was no honest explanation for this piece of deception at a critical point in the race. While it is perfectly true that McKeown did use the whip to make contact three times around the 1 furlong marker (with a different action than he used for the air shot), by this stage the winner was gone beyond recall and the lay bets were safe. McKeown was also criticised for having manoeuvred towards the middle of the track early in the straight so as to keep his horse behind another runner. The Panel did view this as questionable, but, because it did not have the full range of recordings to review, did not conclude that this feature of the ride showed a deliberate intention to lose. Account was taken of the fact that McKeown’s ride was not visible for much of the last furlong in the surviving recording, but again, whatever he was doing at this stage was irrelevant because the race had already been lost.
33. The second alleged non-trier was in race 6 – SMITH N ALLAN OILS at Lingfield on 8 February 2005. McKeown was criticised for riding wide into the straight off the final bend. It is correct that he was a little wide, but that cannot of itself support a finding that he was trying to lose. But again, close study of the recording shows that he delivered another air shot when he had every chance of challenging for a place. This cannot have an innocent explanation. The effort he put in at this stage was nowhere near sufficient to amount to a ride on the merits, and it contrasted with the genuine effort that he put in close to the finish to keep fourth position. But by this stage the bets layed against SMITH N ALLAN OILS finishing in a place were safe.
34. The third alleged non-trier came in race 7 –HITS ONLY CASH at Southwell (on the turf track) on 19 April 2005. Here, just before entering the straight, McKeown let out the reins and effectively left the horse to make its own way to the finish. This allowed the horse to lose its action and it stumbled three times. He did not take the obvious step of gathering the reins and getting the horse together after any of these stumbles. With loose reins, he transmitted no message to the horse with either arms or body. He also delivered a single air shot with the whip proceeded by an extravagant high shoulder movement. Again, there was no innocent explanation for this ride.
35. The final alleged non-trier was in race 11 – HITS ONLY MONEY at Wolverhampton on 19 December 2005. This horse had been out of action for 8 months before the race, and had had two wind operations. It was being tried over 9 furlongs – a distance longer than it had ever run over before. Though untried over this distance, McKeown was in no doubt that this was inappropriate – as he said in interview, “the horse would never get 9 furlongs in a horse box”. McKeown then proceeded to give a classic conditioning ride. Around the final bend and throughout the straight, he made no serious request for effort. Though it is true that the horse’s head went up towards the end of the race to indicate that it had had enough, his failure to ask a question earlier showed that this was another plain breach of Rule 157.
36. The Panel therefore decided that McKeown was fully implicated in the passing of inside information for the horses he rode in the 11 suspect races for the purpose of enabling lay bets to be placed by Clive Whiting and his associates. The Panel did not accept that the only rewards he ever received were for winning rides. While it is impossible to be precise about exactly how and with what he was rewarded for his part in the conspiracy, it is legitimate to infer that the rewards would have been substantial.
37. Finally, it is necessary to explain the implications of the Panel’s findings that McKeown rode in breach of Rule 157 on four occasions and that the lay betters had the comfort of an assurance that he would ride to ensure their success if he could. These conclusions do not amount to findings that McKeown actually prevented any of the four horses in the non-trier races from winning or from placing (where there were place lay bets). They are findings that he did not make the positive efforts that the Rule required, and that he was trying to conceal this practice by for instance delivering air shots with his whip. This lack of positive effort was in one sense a precautionary measure during the races to protect the lay bets when the outcome was not clear, but the Panel does not find that if he had ridden as the Rules required, then the lay bets would have been lost.
38. Blockley accepted that he passed information, both positive and negative, about horses in his yard to Clive Whiting and Vinnie Whiting as well as to Wright. This information was much more than just opinions based on public information, such as form. As he said in evidence, “I reach my opinions on how they gallop and how they talk to me. I know a horse’s eye, how it’s eating up. I read the horses”. This information was therefore inside information.
39. Furthermore, though he professed to be old-fashioned about who he gave information to, and said he was aware that such information should only go to the owners of a particular horse, the evidence in fact showed that he was indiscriminate when passing information to the Whitings at least – his views and opinions about all the horses in his yard were an open book to them.
40. The Panel also concluded that Blockley was aware from the outset that his opinions would be put to use for the purpose of lay betting through the Whitings. The clearest evidence for this came from the timelines which show that in three of the races where Clive Whiting was not the owner, there was telephone contact between Blockley and Clive Whiting immediately after those races. In SKIP OF COLOUR (race1) and ROXANNE MILL (race 4), Blockley called Clive Whiting within seconds of the end of the race. After the race for SMITH N ALLAN OILS, Clive Whiting called Blockley, again within seconds. Blockley was reduced in evidence to suggesting that maybe a button had been pressed in error on his mobile. There was no legitimate reason for contacts between Clive Whiting and Blockley after these races, where the horses were owned by others. It was the Panel’s conclusion that these were instances of the “job done” calls which Lovatt heard from the other end of the line. These calls would not have taken place unless Blockley had supplied information that was sufficiently strong to cause the lay bets to be placed and they are a strong pointer to his involvement in conspiracy.
41. It is also the Panel’s conclusion that Blockley will have been the prime source of the inside information which caused the lay betting on races 4, 5 and 8, where the jockeys were Fergal Lynch (on two occasions) and Ian Mongan on one occasion. It seems that the BHA did not carry out investigations with those jockeys, and it was not therefore suggested that there was anything wrong with the riding in those races. The timelines show similar “cascades” of calls down the line from Blockley to Clive Whiting and then on to the lay betters which are so closely related in time that the Panel inferred that it was the Blockley information that inspired those bets.
42. The next question is whether Blockley was complicit in the actions of McKeown to ride if thought necessary to ensure the success of the lay bets. There was evidence pointing both ways on this matter. Firstly, there was the fact, as the Panel has found, McKeown did not ride horses on their merits in four of the races. Blockley did not dissociate himself from any of these rides, either at the Stewards enquiries that followed two of them, or in evidence before the Panel. His basic position was that all were ridden to instructions, so far as McKeown was able in the circumstances that developed in the races. Blockley is a capable trainer and an astute man. It was a surprise to the Panel that he did not profess to see any of the problems with the rides in those 4 races which the Panel has found to indicate that McKeown was a non-trier. That tends to indicate complicity in all the non-triers. On the other hand, it is not unknown for trainers to be blind to strange features of rides given to their horses.
43. There was also important evidence from Blockley to the effect that, by mid 2005, he had come to the view that McKeown was past it and that he did not want him to ride races on his horses. It is apparent that from about this time Blockley did not put McKeown up on any of his horses except those owned by Clive Whiting and perhaps on one or two others where McKeown had a long riding history. It was suggested by Mr. Weston that this “jocking off” of McKeown indicated that Blockley had become suspicious of the honesty of the rides being given by McKeown and that Blockley was aware that there was a sinister explanation for why McKeown was being used so regularly by Clive Whiting. Blockley rejected this accusation and said that his decision came about because he thought McKeown was no good any more and not because McKeown was stopping horses. The Panel determined that there was a mixture of reasons for Blockley’s attempt to “jock off” McKeown – it was partly because of his views on McKeown’s strengths as a rider and it was partly because he had come to appreciate that McKeown’s rides on Clive Whiting horses, which he knew were being layed to lose, were deliberate non-triers.
44. This conclusion, in the Panel’s view, would tend to indicate that Blockley was not complicit in the earlier assurances provided by McKeown to the Whitings that he would ride to lose if necessary. There was further evidence which needed to be weighed in the balance when deciding if Blockley was always aware that the lay betting was supported by McKeown’s assurance about how he would ride. It was suggested that Bloc