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The champion jockey, text messages and £2m in bets - court told of race-fixing plot 09/10/2007
Owen Bowcott

On Sunday afternoon the six-times champion jockey Kieren Fallon romped home to a euphoric victory in Europe's richest horse race, the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe.

Yesterday morning, wearing a dark suit and looking pale, the 42-year-old Irishman mounted the steps up to the dock in court 12 at the Old Bailey to face charges of race-fixing that could undermine the integrity of the sport.

Mr Fallon and two other jockeys - Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams - are accused of conspiring to lose a total of 27 flat races over two years. The alleged plot involved three others, including Miles Rodgers, a professional gambler from South Yorkshire, who placed a total of £2.12m on those races between December 2002 and August 2004.

The "lay" bets - wagers that a horse would lose - were made on a leading internet betting exchange called Betfair. But it was because such colossal sums - frequently more than £100,000 - were placed to win smaller amounts that suspicions were aroused.

"There was an unlawful agreement or conspiracy between these defendants, and other persons not known, that those races should be fixed," Jonathan Caplan QC, for the prosecution, told the jury.

Miles Rodgers, who had been disqualified by the Jockey Club for two years, was the "organiser of the conspiracy", he said. "On race days Mr Rodgers had direct contact by mobile telephone with Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams. Kieren Fallon was more cautious and Rodgers had indirect contact with Mr Fallon using as an intermediary, Shaun Lynch ... and latterly Philip Sherkle."

Mr Fallon, the shortest of the six in the dock, leaned forward intermittently to hear court exchanges, like an eager rider pitched forward in the saddle. He heard Mr Caplan describe him as "one of the leading jockeys in the world".

Fergal Lynch rode in six of the 27 suspect races, the court heard. He won only once and earned the alleged conspirators £5,000 profit. Darren Williams rode four suspect races and lost every one, gathering £55,000 in winnings.

Kieren Fallon rode in 17 races. He lost 12 of them but won five - making a net loss for the "conspirators" of £338,000. "It is important to remember," Mr Caplan said, "that Rodgers at that time was working with Fergal Lynch and Fallon to get the conspiracy back into profit by concentrating on their rides in handicap races."

Mr Williams was alleged to have been given envelopes stuffed with cash for his part in the plot. There is no evidence that Mr Fallon received "any money or benefit from Rodgers" but the prosecution believe that was because at that stage he had cost the "conspirators" money. "The inference to be drawn," Mr Caplan added, "is that he was clearly involved for reward."

The plan was not foolproof because jockeys "could not always stop the horse ... if it would look too obvious", the court was told. "A horse race is a dynamic event and anything can happen but the plan worked most of the time."

The "most common method of interference" would be to ensure the horse "does not run on its merits". One example would be for a jockey to deliberately ride into "a wall of other horses". The rider could also miss the start by delaying taking off the horse's hood, "fail to ride vigorously" or "slow the intensity of his efforts".

Mr Fallon, the court was told, often discussed the prospects of his rides with Fergal and Shaun Lynch but his position was that he was "completely unaware" that they passed this information on to Mr Rodgers. He also passed on tips to Mr Sherkle because he thought he was putting "his own couple of quid" on them.

The accused all deny the defrauding charges. Some admit to having been in contact "for the innocent purpose of passing on tips or betting information".

Because it was a criminal conspiracy that sought to leave no records, Mr Caplan said, the prosecution would rely on the pattern of telephone calls, text messages, and bets to show "a criminal conspiracy ... to fix numerous horse races ... to the detriment of the betting public".

Using the example of Goodwood Spirit, a horse ridden at Goodwood by Mr Fallon on August 14 2004, Mr Caplan showed text messages had been exchanged between Mr Fallon, Mr Sherkle and Mr Rodgers on the morning of the race.

The text sent by Mr Sherkle and later recovered from Mr Rodgers' mobile read: "6.55 no4 n." The "6.55" was alleged to refer to the race time, "no4" referred to the horse's position on the racecard in that day's Racing Post and "n" supposedly meant "non-tryer".It had allegedly been forwarded from Kieren Fallon.

The court also heard that Mr Fallon had sent a "revealing" series of text messages the day after winning a race he was supposed to have lost. One message to Mr Sherkle in July 2004 read: "They will take my licences off me if they drift like that last night. They are watching me."

The case continues.

Six in the dock
Kieren Fallon 42, now living in Tipperary, in the Republic of Ireland. The most successful flat race jockey of his generation. He was stable jockey for trainer Sir Michael Stoute in Newmarket, Cambridgeshire. He has known the Lynch brothers since childhood in County Clare, Ireland
Miles Rodgers 38, a professional gambler from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, described as the "organiser of this conspiracy". He was disqualified by the Jockey Club and was supposed to have no contact with licensed jockeys. Fallon had ridden for him in the past
Fergal Lynch 29, of Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire. A licensed jockey who rode for the trainer Kevin Ryan
Shaun Lynch 37, of Belfast. Fergal's older brother, he had worked for a number of bookmakers. The brothers shared a cottage within a stable complex in Minskip, North Yorkshire
Darren Williams, 29, a licensed jockey who lived in Leyburn, North Yorkshire
Philip Sherkle 42, a barman and former employee in a furniture shop in Dublin. Lives in Tamworth, Staffordshire, with his wife and children. He told police he met Fallon through the owner of a pub in Newmarket, Cambridgeshire