12 Jan 2011 Pre-2014 Releases

Between 26 November and 1 December 2010, the Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) conducted an enquiry into allegations against a number of people relating to the running and riding of SABRE LIGHT at Lingfield on 17 December 2008. The gelding ran that day in the Holly and the Ivy Claiming Stakes, when ridden by Jerry O’Dwyer and trained by Jeff Pearce, and finished 5th of 13 runners, beaten a total of 5 ¾ lengths by the winner.

The gelding’s performance in the race received much press coverage at the time. A “red alert” because of suspicious betting patterns had been communicated to the Lingfield Stewards on the day and they held an enquiry into its run, knowing of these betting concerns. They did not find any breach of the Rules of Racing. Recordings of the race were then reviewed a day or two later by Michael Whyatt, then the Disciplinary Race Analyst with the BHA. He was “comfortable” with the view of the race which the Lingfield Stewards had taken.

Shortly afterwards, the BHA’s Integrity and Licensing Department began an in depth investigation of the betting and of those involved with the gelding. Eighteen months later, that investigation led to the making of a substantial number of allegations of breach of the Rules of Racing against various people.

The allegations of breach

O’Dwyer faced just one allegation of breach – that he deliberately failed to ride SABRE LIGHT on its merits contrary to Rule 157. He was not said to be party to any conspiracy.

Pearce was alleged to have committed a corrupt practice or been part of a conspiracy to cause the gelding to lose contrary to Rule 201(v). He was also alleged to have been engaged in a conspiracy or a corrupt practice to conceal the true ownership of the gelding before the race, contrary to the same Rule. There were further charges that he lied to investigators at interview about the true ownership and about a mobile telephone he was said to have concealed. A further allegation he faced was that as the trainer of the gelding he was in breach of Rule 155 for failing to ensure that O’Dwyer rode it on its merits. Finally he was alleged to be in breach of Rule 243 because he communicated inside information to Geoff Huffer about horses in his care.

Huffer was alleged to be the true owner of the horse and therefore to be in breach of Rule 247 because, the BHA said, he either layed it to lose himself or arranged for others to do it. Like Pearce, he was also said to have committed a corrupt practice or been engaged in a conspiracy to cause the gelding to lose and to profit from this by lay betting, all contrary to Rule 201(v). He was also said to be in breach of the same Rule by concealing his ownership of the gelding. Also, contrary to Rule 220(viii), he was said to have lied to investigators about the true ownership of the gelding and about the fact that Pearce supplied him with inside information. There was a separate allegation that he had caused Pearce to act in breach of Rule 243 by getting him to supply inside information about horses in his care, and was thereby in breach of Rule 220(ix).

Fran O’Brien, in whose name SABRE LIGHT was registered as the owner, was alleged to be in breach of Rule 220(vii) for letting Pearce and Huffer represent him as the owner when he was not.

There were four people against whom the BHA alleged involvement in a corrupt practice or in a conspiracy by laying the gelding to lose on 17 December with the benefit of inside information that it would not be run on its merits – all in breach of Rule 201(v). They were Gary Banham, Peter Root, Sharon Williams and Mark Benton. These four were referred to as the “connected layers”. Banham faced an additional allegation that he acted in a manner contrary to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horseracing by physically threatening BHA investigators when they sought to interview him on 17 March 2010.

Additionally, the BHA sought exclusion orders against three other gamblers with Betfair or Betdaq accounts – Patrick Wrixon, Steven Radford and Jeffrey Conrad. They, (along with John Loftus, against whom no order was sought), were described as “commission layers”, ie gamblers who provided facilities for others to bet through their betting exchange accounts. None of these three responded to any of the BHA’s attempts to speak with them to investigate why and for whom they placed lay bets against SABRE LIGHT.

The contentions of the parties – an overview

The BHA’s case was presented by Graeme MacPherson QC. On the principal issues (the performance of SABRE LIGHT on 17 December 2008 and whether the lay betting was inspired by inside information), his case was as follows. The gelding was claimed by Pearce on Huffer’s instructions in October 2008, but ownership was then registered in the name of Fran O’Brien, the landlord of the Waggon and Horses at Newmarket, where Pearce, Huffer and less often O’Dwyer were regulars. It was said that O’Brien was not the real owner of SABRE LIGHT, but a front to mask Huffer’s interest.

As for the race itself, the BHA suggested that a number of features demonstrated that the gelding was not ridden on its merits: the lack of real effort at the start; a failure to do more than keep station at the rear of the field in the back straight; and an inside switch in the home straight which was designed to and did have the effect of causing the gelding to encounter traffic. This ride was alleged to be on Pearce’s orders and for Huffer’s purposes, which were to be achieved through a number of individuals with Betfair and Betdaq accounts who placed lay bets against SABRE LIGHT (amounting to nearly half the market volume in the case of the Betfair transactions). These lay bets were said to be of a size that was rare or unprecedented for these individuals, leading to the conclusion that they were based upon information that the gelding was not going to win that day. That information must have come from Pearce or Huffer, even though telephone records obtained by the BHA did not show contact between them and the gamblers. Pearce’s and Huffer’s complicity in a lay betting plot was said to be demonstrated in part by an unusual series of phone calls on the morning of the race. Pearce, who was driving to Lingfield at the time, was contacted by Adrian Ashford, who had become O’Brien’s business associate and who was trying to bring some order into the finances of the Waggon and Horses. He and O’Brien had sometime before told Pearce to get rid of all of O’Brien’s interests in horses. So he (Ashford) was very surprised to see in that day’s Racing Post that SABRE LIGHT was declared to run in O’Brien’s colours. Ashford told Pearce that the gelding was not to run in O’Brien’s name. Pearce then made contact with Huffer, who told him to offer £1,000 to let SABRE LIGHT run. Ashford said that this was not good enough and that Pearce, after again consulting Huffer, offererd the prize money from its last two runs (both wins) amounting to £2,700. Ashford said he agreed this on O’Brien’s behalf.

O’Dwyer (represented by Rory MacNeice) denied that he had given a bad ride, deliberately or otherwise. He said that the gelding had felt flat when going down to the start and throughout the race. He had been unable to get a mid-division position from the start as instructed and had then had to give two firm hits with the whip even to get the gelding to stay in touch with the rear of the field in the back straight as well as to niggle it along. In the home straight, he suffered a check at the 1 furlong marker, not because he was looking for traffic but because his intended line was blocked by another runner first moving to make an outside run but then switching back inside. He reported at Scales under Instruction H24 that his mount was “never travelling”. At the subsequent Stewards’ enquiry (which was mandatory because of the red alert) he gave essentially the same explanations as he provided in greater detail for the Panel. Both the Stewards and Mr Whyatt (who reviewed the race with more time available to him than the on-course analysts) found nothing wrong with his ride, despite knowing of the fact, though not the detail, of the betting concerns.

Pearce (represented by Angus Piper) said his only instruction to O’Dwyer about the race was that which he explained to the Stewards and to the Panel: “jump him out, ride him mid division like we normally do, and just give him a little chance to travel”. He recognised that O’Dwyer was unable to comply with this plan, and attributed it to the gelding being flat on the day. He also drew attention to a cut on the gelding’s off hind and to the result of his veterinary surgeon’s inspection the next day when it was found to be 1/10 lame.

Pearce’s position was that he thought O’Brien was the owner of the gelding and that he rendered invoices for training fees to him. His admission in interview on 28 January 2009 by BHA investigators that Huffer was in fact the owner had been procured by bullying tactics: “Gestapo-like” he called them. More generally, a sustained attack was developed on Pearce’s behalf on the methods and approach to their task of the BHA investigators, primarily David Murphy and John Burgess. It was said that they had decided from the outset that Pearce and Huffer were guilty, that they did not give them the same treatment as other witnesses, notably O’Brien. This approach led them to shut their eyes to the possibility that the layers’ unusual confidence on 17 December came from sources other than Pearce or Huffer.

His version of the exchanges with Ashford and Huffer on the morning of 17 December was that he was just the middle man who did not reflect upon or understand the implications of Huffer (supposedly not the owner) offering money to O’Brien (supposedly the owner) to let SABRE LIGHT run.

Pearce, as well as O’Dwyer and Huffer relied heavily on the fact that most of the suspect betting accounts for the 17 December race had also placed large lay bets against SABRE LIGHT for its race over the same course and distance on 5 December when it had won under a vigorous ride from O’Dwyer. The size of the failed lay betting on that occasion demonstrated the same confidence that apparently motivated the 17 December lay bets. That showed, they said, that whatever information prompted the lay betting for the 17 December race, it could not have been information provided by Pearce or Huffer.

Huffer, who represented himself, told the Panel that he had always been open about the fact that he paid for SABRE LIGHT when it was claimed on his instructions on 16 October 2008. He said that he was later let down by O’Brien who had agreed to take the gelding from him and to put together a syndicate of owners, but failed to do so. So he denied O’Brien was a front to conceal his (Huffer’s) ownership throughout and pointed out that O’Brien had gone with him to Lingfield on 5 December, had been photographed in the winner’s enclosure and had collected the winning owner’s trophy.

His explanation in his part in the exchanges with Ashford conducted via Pearce was that he was keen for the gelding to run in the hope it would be claimed, enabling repayment to him of O’Brien’s debt for the purchase of SABRE LIGHT.

Huffer added an extra ingredient to the point that the 17 December laying activity was unconnected with him because the layers had bet against SABRE LIGHT with similar confidence on 5 December. This was his evidence that he himself had backed SABRE LIGHT on course with Barry Dennis (£200 at 5/2). So he said he was doing the opposite to the layers on 5 December, which reinforced his case that he was not a supplier of information to them.

The Panel’s findings

(i) Acquisition and ownership of SABRE LIGHT

Much time was spent at the enquiry investigating whether SABRE LIGHT was truly owned by O’Brien, who was registered by Pearce as the owner with Weatherby’s a day or two after it was claimed at Great Leighs on 16 October 2008, or whether the real owner was Huffer.

Before considering that evidence, it is worth identifying the relevance of this issue to the breaches alleged by the BHA. It is only directly material to the allegations firstly that Huffer layed his own horse contrary to Rule 247; secondly that Pearce and Huffer were acting fraudulently in concealing Huffer’s interest in the gelding contrary to Rule 201(v); and thirdly that Pearce and Huffer lied to investigators about the position, contrary to the Rule 220(viii). Otherwise, it was said to demonstrate that there was “a planned subterfuge” over the running of SABRE LIGHT on 17 December and that concealing Huffer’s interest was designed to obscure his part in the events of that day.

There was a variety of evidence and argument on this question, nearly all of which failed to provide a decisive answer one way or another. It is unnecessary to go through all the detail. However, there was one determining feature. This was the content of the unusual exchanges between Ashford, Pearce and Huffer on the morning of 17 December, shortly before the race. The Panel’s findings on this are given later in these Reasons. What was significant in these exchanges for the ownership question was that there was no reason for Ashford (on O’Brien’s behalf) to have sought or for Huffer to have offered prize money from SABRE LIGHT’s performances. If O’Brien was the true owner and Huffer was not. It was the common assumption that those engaged in the conversations that the prize money was in Huffer’s gift, even though it was actually being channelled to O’Brien as the registered owner. That assumption reflected what they knew to be the reality: that Huffer was the real owner with an owner’s control of what was done with the gelding and its earnings. He was not acting as an unpaid seller.

But that finding requires some qualification. There was no initial concealment of Huffer’s involvement when the gelding was claimed by Pearce at Great Leighs on 16 October. Pearce did this on Huffer’s instructions and Huffer declared his involvement openly at the time when he paid the total of £14,805 to Weatherby’s for the claim. There may well have been some discussion, as Huffer told the Panel, of the possibility of O’Brien organising a syndicate to take on ownership of the gelding, but this never came to anything. There was, however, agreement by O’Brien to let the horse run in his colours and therefore for him to be seen as the registered owner by Weatherby’s and the rest of the world. In that sense, he was a front for Huffer’s real ownership and control.

None of the points relied upon to support the case that O’Brien was the owner and Huffer was merely an unpaid seller contradicts the Panel’s conclusion based upon the tripartite dealings between Ashford, Pearce and Huffer on 17 December. O’Brien was registered as owner and prize money flowed into his Weatherby’s account. He was also photographed in the winner’s enclosure at Lingfield on 5 December, and happily went up to receive the winner’s trophy. The question is whether that reflected the true position: the 17 December discussions indicate that it did not. By the same token, the BHA’s reliance on the fact that SABRE LIGHT’s box at Pearce’s yard had a label recording that Huffer was the owner, was not decisive either. The label would have been put up when the gelding was brought back from Great Leighs and it does not mean that a later sale to O’Brien could not have been agreed. The Panel should finally record that it placed limited weight on O’Brien’s statement and interview record in forming its conclusions. He did not choose to come to the enquiry and be cross-examined.

A related but important question is what Pearce knew of the real position as between Huffer and O’Brien. He produced copies of two invoices addressed to O’Brien for training fees for SABRE LIGHT. Even making every allowance for the fact that Pearce, who left invoicing matters to his wife, seemed to have an uncertain understanding of them, these invoices raised more problems than they solved. There was no invoice for October 2008. The two copy invoices produced covered November and December 2008. They charged £400 per month all in (ie excluding vet’s bills and heath tax, Pearce said). While the Panel was disposed to accept that the invoices were produced on or about the dates they bear (because their serial numbers fit with the sequence of other invoices clearly enough issued at the time), their unexplained problems cannot support the contention that O’Brien was the owner or that Pearce thought he was. Their amount was plainly inadequate to cover both training costs and extras such as transport, farrier costs and the like. Pearce’s first explanation for this was that he had been bargained down by O’Brien to a daily rate of about £13 all in. This evidence was, in the Panel’s view an unintelligent invention. He later sought to suggest that the charge was calculated as O’Brien’s share of a syndicate ownership, but Pearce was unable to explain what that share was. It remained unclear whether either invoice was ever sent to O’Brien.

At the end of the day, the invoices did not indicate Pearce thought O’Brien was the owner.

The main ground relied upon by the BHA to show Pearce thought Huffer and not O’Brien to be the owner was his admission to that effect in interview by investigators. In evidence before the Panel, he sought to withdraw the admission and said he was pressured into it by the investigator’s Gestapo tactics. This caused the Panel to listen to the original tapes of the interview. They do not show any excessive pressure being applied. They do, however, reinforce the impression gathered from the transcripts themselves that the questioning was often confused, with interruptions and the asking of multiple questions which created doubt about which question an answer might apply to. There is nothing wrong with strong questioning – the need to protect the sport by discovering wrongdoing may require it at times. But there is substantial truth in the point argued on behalf of Pearce and Huffer that the investigators decided at a very early stage that O’Brien was the “good guy” and that Huffer and Pearce had been up to no good. It would be preferable if future interviews were conducted dispassionately without announcing to witnesses that the investigators view them as truthful or dishonest: an overall view about where the truth lies is better formed when all the necessary evidence has been collected. However, there was no submission (rightly, in the Panel’s view) that defects in the investigators’ approach made pursuit of the allegations in this enquiry against Huffer and Pearce unfair or otherwise an abuse of process. So the Panel’s task was to assess what evidence there was.

There was a related suggestion that investigators had not followed up other leads about the source(s) of information which might have provoked the unusual betting patterns for the 17 December race. The Panel first of all recognised that there were always resource constraints in investigations. But whether or not there were other leads to follow, the issue for the Panel was always whether the evidence put before it justified the allegations of breach of the Rules. Speculation about where further investigations might have lead was not useful unless it demonstrated a reasonable alternative explanation.

Yet a further criticism of the investigation was that false points were sometimes put to interviewees, especially Pearce. He was told at one stage that Huffer was a “friend and associate” of one of the lay betters, Gary Banham. Unsurprisingly, that caused Pearce to doubt his friend Huffer and lead him to say that Huffer had “hung me out to dry”. There was in fact no evidence that Huffer and Banham knew each other, and David Murphy, who had put the point to Pearce, was unable to recall his basis for saying it. Again, the Panel recognised that it would be necessary for investigators to put many theories and suggestions to interviewees. But if ultimately there is no factual basis for them, answers which assume their truth will not have any value. That was the approach taken here by the Panel.

So despite deficiencies in the investigation, the Panel was satisfied that Pearce did clearly and reliably admit, late on in his interview, that he knew that Huffer was the owner of SABRE LIGHT, because he came to learn (probably within a week or two of the gelding being claimed) that a syndication organized by O’Brien was not going to happen. He continued to discuss and take directions from Huffer about how it was to be campaigned.

But for the Panel, the clinching evidence that Pearce was aware that Huffer was the owner came from the circumstances of the Ashford exchange on the morning of 17 December. When Ashford demanded that the horse be withdrawn, Pearce called Huffer. Even if, as he said, Ashford told him to call Huffer, he knew full well why Huffer was being involved, it was because Huffer was the real owner who took decisions about the gelding and O’Brien was a mere front.

Why were Huffer and Pearce so concerned at their interviews to contend that O’Brien and not Huffer was the owner? In part it was because the 17 December performance had created adverse publicity and Huffer wanted to put distance between himself and the controversy. But also, they both wanted to hide the extent to which Huffer was involved in all decisions about the gelding, when on the face of it he should have had no such involvement.

(ii) The gelding’s races prior to 17 December

SABRE LIGHT ran four times for Pearce prior to 17 December. The first was at Great Yarmouth on 21 October, an engagement for which its previous trainer, Alan Bailey, had entered it. It finished 5th of 13 in an 11 furlong claimer ridden for the first time by O’Dwyer. On this occasion, 3 of the 8 exchange accounts layed it for substantial sums. Banham risked nearly £25,000 to win £5,975; Conrad risked £3,220 to win £700; and Loftus won £5,342 for a risk of £26,779. Interestingly, Huffer produced copies of betting slips showing that he backed it at 4/1 to win £440 with Ladbrokes. Thus he was doing the opposite to the layers, which indicated to the Panel that he was not the source who motivated the lay betting on this occasion.

The gelding then won its next 3 races on 9 November, 30 November and 5 December. For the first and third of these races, it was again ridden by O’Dwyer. For the second, it was ridden by J. Quinn. All were claiming races over 11 or 10 furlongs on all-weather surfaces, with the November races being at Kempton and the 5 December race at Lingfield.

The most significant of these was the 5 December race at Lingfield, over the same distance and against many of the same opponents as were engaged in the 17 December race. O’Dwyer rode in accordance with his instructions to get the gelding into a mid-division position early on. When the field reached the first bend, which begins about 150 yards after the start, he was lying 5th of 12. He rode vigorously to get that position as the gelding, which had been drawn in stall 4, was slower away than most of its rivals (a recurring feature in its races). He rode strongly and professionally throughout, producing the gelding through a tight gap on the turn approaching the final straight so as to keep in touch with the leaders. It eventually won with the aid of firm driving which earned him a day’s suspension for careless riding that caused interference in the last furlong.

For this race, the gelding was the subject of lay betting by 6 of the 8 accounts which participated in the 17 December laying. Only Benton and Root (relatively small players) did not bet. Those who did place lay bets did so in a size similar to or even larger than their lay bets on 17 December. The 5 Betfair layers on 5 December comprised 47% of Betfair’s total market volume; on 17 December when all 7 layers who used Betfair accounts were in action, they comprised 45% of the total Betfair volume.

The suspicious accounts for 17 December were primarily identified on the basis that they were taking larger than normal lay risks, indicating an exceptional degree of confidence. But they did the same on 5 December, which must be taken to indicate a similar degree of confidence on that day. For instance, Banham risked (and lost) £43,799 on 5 December; he risked £39,724 on 17 December, producing a win of £10,500.

Whatever the reason for the layers’ confidence on 5 December, it certainly cannot have been induced by O’Dwyer, given the nature of his ride that day. Nor can it have come from Huffer, who actually bet on SABRE LIGHT to win. The suggestion from Murphy of the BHA that Huffer was creating a defence for himself by placing a small traceable win bet while really profiting from participation in the lay betting has no foundation in the evidence. Though Huffer is a sharp-witted man, the Panel did not believe he would have gone to such elaborate lengths of planning. Nor does the Panel see any basis for holding that Pearce might have been the source, when his jockey rode with such strength and confidence and when Huffer, the real owner, took a different financial stand to the layers. The Panel was alive to the possibilities that the lay betters were either mislead or misunderstood information from Huffer, Pearce or O’Dwyer about prospects on that day. If these gamblers had been “put away” (either deliberately or as a result of a misunderstanding), there is no doubt that Pearce, Huffer and O’Dwyer would have been put under real pressure or even physically threatened in relation to the next race on 17 December. Banham’s threatening behaviour towards investigators who went to interview him in May 2009 lends real credence to that. Yet one aspect of the evidence given by all three of O’Dwyer, Pearce and Huffer, which seemed entirely convincing to the Panel was their denial that any of them had faced any pressure or threats.

(iii) The pre-race exchanges between Ashford, O’Brien, Pearce and Huffer

There is no dispute that Adrian Ashford, who shortly before had become O’Brien’s business partner in running the Waggon and Horses, made contact with Pearce on the morning of the race and that a number of calls then took place. Ashford said that he was prompted to call Pearce when he noticed from that day’s edition of the Racing Post that SABRE LIGHT was due to run in O’Brien’s colours, despite an earlier agreement between him, O’Brien and Pearce that O’Brien would have nothing more to do with horse ownership. A number of calls took place between Ashford, O’Brien and Pearce on the one hand and Pearce and Huffer on the other hand, in which Ashford said that the gelding should not run in O’Brien’s name. This elicited an offer from Pearce (after speaking with Huffer) to pay £1,000 to let it run. Ashford asked for more and said that he was eventually offered the prize money from the gelding’s previous two wins (which amounted to £2,700). Pearce’s evidence basically confirmed his part in these exchanges. Though he was unclear about what the eventual offer accepted by Ashford was, it was plainly more than the initial offer of £1,000. Huffer’s evidence was that he offered just that day’s (ie 17 December) prize money. It was clear to the Panel that a bargaining process had taken place and that it ended with Ashford’s agreement (for O’Brien) to let it run if O’Brien was allowed to keep the prize money from the two previous wins. Huffer’s version makes no sense in the context.

These exchanges are obviously relevant to help in deciding where the true ownership of SABRE LIGHT lay, as already described. Why should Huffer and Pearce offer to O’Brien (the man they both say owned the gelding) money that already belonged to O’Brien to let it run? They were not doing that. They were offering money that belonged to Huffer (and money to which Pearce as the trainer was entitled to a percentage), because Huffer was the real owner.

But the conversations also raised some wider questions. Why should Huffer, and Pearce as his intermediary, be offering substantial payment to enable the gelding to run that day? Pearce’s explanations were firstly that he did not really apply his mind to what was going on and secondly, that he wanted the run to improve the gelding’s value for its possible sale in the spring as a potential hurdler. Huffer’s explanation was that he wanted the gelding to run so that it could win and be claimed, thereby enabling O’Brien’s debt to him to be paid off.

The Panel did not believe any of these explanations. Pearce was not just acting as a mere unthinking transmitter of messages back and forth between Ashford , O’Brien and Huffer. And the idea that a win on 17 December was worth paying for to the extent agreed was incredible. The gelding had won 3 races in a row, and the prospect of a fourth on 17 December in the same class of race would not have been worth anything like the price agreed. Huffer’s suggestion that he was prepared to pay to enable the run on 17 December because he hoped it would be claimed was likewise incredible. No claims had been made after any of its last 3 runs, all of which it won, except by Pearce on behalf of (in reality) Huffer. Furthermore, Pearce lodged the only claim after the race on 17 December, which is clearly inconsistent with Huffer’s professed hope that someone else might take it. Huffer expressed surprise that Pearce had put in a claim, and said this was done without his knowledge. But if it had been his genuine hope that the gelding might be claimed, the Panel was convinced that he would have ensured that Pearce did not lodge a claim. Quite apart from all of that, the agreement to pay such a substantial sum to O’Brien for permission to run that day simply bears no relation to the prospect of gain from the run which Huffer or Pearce said they hoped for.

So what was the real reason why Huffer and Pearce were prepared to pay a four figure sum to O’Brien to let SABRE LIGHT run? Neither suggested that they planned or placed any back bets. The Panel’s conclusion was that they did this because they wanted it to lose.

(iv) The race on 17 December

SABRE LIGHT was running over the same course and distance as it had on 5 December, in the same class of race against many of the same opponents. It was drawn in stall 2. Within 3 or so strides from the start, the horse from stall 1 crossed in front of SABRE LIGHT, (without causing any interference; it had broken much quicker), leaving that gelding nearest to the inside rail for the 150 yard run to the start of the first bend. In marked contrast to his ride on 5 December, for which he said his instructions were precisely the same as on 17 December, O’Dwyer was not active at all: there was no push or drive to get the gelding into a mid division position. Instead he let it take its own course to the start of the first bend, by which time it was in last position. Though the gelding broke slowly from the stalls, that was a common feature of its runs. The Panel’s particular concern was O’Dwyer’s inactivity up to and around the first bend. This called for an explanation. He gave two. He said firstly that the gelding seemed flat and secondly that he was concerned about being squeezed at the start of the bend by other runners funnelling in. If the gelding felt flat, then there was all the more reason for O’Dwyer to push for the position his supposed instructions called for. As for the fear of being squeezed, the Panel did not accept this was genuine. He had ample room to push for a mid division position, as he had done, successfully, on 5 December.

From last position at the start of the first bend, SABRE LIGHT continued to run without encouragement until 21 seconds into the race, by which stage a gap was opening up between it and the next to last runner. Then, O’Dwyer began to push and gave a