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Tapes put two jockeys in frame in corruption probe 27/01/2007
Greg Wood

The Horseracing Regulatory Authority yesterday took charge of a bundle of evidence, including a 15-minute tape recording in which a jockey is believed to discuss laying short-priced horses to lose, following allegations of possible corruption in a Sunday newspaper six days ago.

The HRA is now expected to launch its own investigation into the claims, which revolve around two Flat jockeys and their driver, who is alleged to have asked a full-time tipster to open an account on the Betfair betting exchange on his behalf. This account would then have been used by the jockeys to lay their horses to lose.

If the tape recording proves to be genuine, it would offer unusually strong and direct evidence to the HRA's investigators, who are more used to relying on a painstaking trawl through betting accounts and telephone records in order to build a case against individuals suspected of corrupting racing.

Horseracing Regulatory Authority

While the latest evidence of possible wrongdoing was making its way to HRA headquarters in London yesterday, another more positive package of documents was travelling towards the headquarters of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport less than a mile down the road. Racing's bid to buy the Tote arrived just in time to meet the deadline set by the government for a final offer for the pool and off-course betting operation, and is thought to match the £400m valuation placed on the business by the accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers.

It is now certain that racing will take control of the Tote in due course, and the only question that remains is when. Though DCMS officials insisted last week that no further input is required by the European commission, which blocked an earlier attempt to sell the Tote to racing at a knock-down price, some observers still believe that a referral to Brussels to rubber-stamp the deal may be a diplomatic course of action even if it is not essential.

If so, the handover of the Tote would inevitably be delayed, much to the frustration of racing officials who would like to launch the sport's historic entry into the betting market at the Cheltenham Festival, where the Tote will sponsor the Gold Cup.

Brave Inca, who will face seven rivals in defence of his AIG Europe Champion Hurdle crown at Leopardstown tomorrow, is reportedly in good form ahead of his repeat bid and trainer Colm Murphy is brimming with confidence.

"He feels good and he seems in great order," said Murphy. "He's come out of his last race in grand shape and the ground drying up a bit has to be in his favour."

Noel Meade is pleased with the condition of Iktitaf and Jazz Messenger and has secured Timmy Murphy's services for Iktitaf as regular partner Paul Carberry will miss the ride through injury.

Ireland's champion trainer concedes that whatever finishes in front of Brave Inca is the most likely winner.

"If it stays dry from now until Sunday it should be OK," he said. "Iktitaf is in great shape. It's a good race though and it truly is the Irish Champion Hurdle."