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Survivors survey damage across the field as racing counts cost of collapse 08/12/2007
Greg Wood

What should the average punter - the providers of racing's lifeblood thanks to betting revenue - make of yesterday's news from the Old Bailey as they cross the threshold of their local betting shop this morning? Should they feel more or less confident about the integrity of racing?

One simple fact is that despite lurid headlines and much anticipation, there proved to be no case to answer against Kieren Fallon, the six-times champion jockey of Britain, or either Fergal Lynch or Darren Williams. The idea that they were regularly riding to lose was thrown out of court.

What should also be crystal clear is that the arrival of Betfair in the betting market has offered an invaluable tool in the fight against corruption. The fact that the betting records in this case contributed to the defence rather than the prosecution - since the supposed conspirators were actually out of pocket - does not detract from the fact that this information is now readily available to regulators.

As has been the case for several years, they can also see from brief reference to the Racing Post that the returns from backing favourites are at a historically high level. If racing were fundamentally corrupt, it is difficult, to say the least, to see how this could be the case.

The maintenance of racing's integrity, though, is an ongoing process, and it is also fair to ask how attempts to undermine the sport in the future will be investigated.

It is unlikely that any police force in the country will be willing to undertake an investigation into the sport after the ignorance and ineptitude of the City of London force was exposed with such regularity at the Old Bailey.

It is also unlikely that a racing case will ever be brought on a charge of "conspiracy to defraud", which is notoriously difficult to prove even when there is worthwhile evidence, never mind the sort of desperately weak case that the Old Bailey considered.

Instead, it will now fall to the new Gambling Commission to prosecute serious, organised attempts to corrupt the sport. The new law against "cheating at gambling" should, in theory, be easier to prosecute than conspiracy.

The racing authorities are well aware of this - indeed, it is they who lobbied hard for such a law. Following the humiliating events in Court 12 at the Old Bailey, however, it may be some time before they are willing to put it to the test.

What it means for The jockeys
For Kieren Fallon, as it is for Darren Williams and Fergal Lynch, the most important question following the collapse of their trial is when they can get their careers back on track.

For Fallon in particular it cannot happen soon enough, as he is now in his forties and, with due respect to Williams and Lynch, has much more of a career to salvage.

Since he has an Irish licence, and the British Horseracing Authority's ban on him riding in this country lapsed as soon as the proceedings ended at the Old Bailey, Fallon could theoretically ride on the all...#8209;weather next week.

Fallon will need time to regain his racing weight and fitness, however, and may be more likely to return to regular action in the new year. He must also consider whether to take legal action against the BHA for pursuing what he may well believe was a vendetta against him.

He will also hope to rebuild his role as the No1 jockey for Aidan O'Brien, for whom he won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Dylan Thomas in early October.

A statement from John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, the men behind O'Brien's Ballydoyle yard, said yesterday that they "find it extremely sad that he was denied the right to display his skills and earn a living on the racecourses of Britain while this case was pending. A jockey's riding career is a short one and Fallon was cruelly disadvantaged at the peak of his career."

The fact that the statement read "was" disadvantaged, rather than "has been", is probably no more than an inadvertent use of the past tense. It is hard to believe that Magnier, the main man at Coolmore, would dispense with Fallon now having stood by him for so long.

Nonetheless, even a jockey blessed with Fallon's natural weight and fitness will take time to get back to the levels of mental and physical sharpness required to ride multimillion-pound thoroughbreds in the world's top races.

Williams and Lynch, meanwhile, must reapply for their licences, and while they have been suspended - effectively on full pay, thanks to the riders' insurance fund - for more than a year, this may not be a formality. At the very least, both will have to answer questions about their association with Miles Rodgers before they can ride again.

What it means for The BHA
The question that should be taxing the BHA this morning is not so much how it got into such a mess, but why. Over the last two years a dozen licensed individuals, mostly jockeys, have been handed long suspensions for either supplying inside information to gamblers, or deliberately riding to lose. Evidence from the Betfair betting exchange has been crucial in all these cases.

All the while, though, the criminal investigation by the City of London police has been continuing, with betting evidence an important strand of the case. The collapse of that case may now leave in question the validity of such evidence not only in previous cases but in future ones too.

The BHA did its best to distance itself from the police investigation yesterday, but it became clear in court that the Jockey Club - as it then was - had asked a series of police forces to launch an investigation before it finally persuaded City of London police to become involved. Ben Gunn, a former policeman who sits on the BHA board, and Paul Scotney, the BHA's head of security, were key figures in this process. Both may be considering their positions this morning.

Paul Struthers, the BHA's spokesman, insisted yesterday that "at no point was any funding promised, at no point was any funding agreed, and at no point was any funding paid" to persuade the police to investigate. However, it was conceded in court that Scotney and Gunn met the commissioner of City of London police a month before their investigation started. If it becomes clear that funding for the operation was discussed in any detail, the positions of all those concerned will be untenable. But there are also several other decisions that the BHA must take.

Should it withdraw its offer of employment to Mark Manning, the policeman in charge of the investigation whose ignorance of racing and betting was so cruelly exposed court? Should it take action against any or all of the jockeys involved over their clear breaches of rules on inside information? Should it take action against Lynch and Williams in particular over their associations with Rodgers, who was a disqualified person at the time?

The remaining key question, however, is not for the BHA to answer. It is whether the organisation still has the ability - and the credibility - to regulate the sport in Britain.

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