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An important 'bit of fluff'
As soon as Panorama began this investigation, the fences went up. "What we want is a method of making these bastards go away," wrote one racing journalist when deriding the programme.
One pundit weighed in: "I don't think this Panorama will really ever get off the ground... which I think is probably good news."
And if the message hadn't got through by this stage, there were always the emails. One stated bluntly: "I hope you get the good kicking you deserve and surely have coming your way."
And all of this, it should be pointed out, was just the sparring session.
Panorama would soon be forced into the High Court to fight off two attempts to get the programme stopped. And to think that the Trojan Horse had something to hide.
The real problem, though, for many was Panorama's decision to use the former racing insider Roger Buffham as a key consultant to the programme.
On the verge of becoming the sport's most celebrated whistleblower, Buffham was sacked by the Jockey Club last year after two complaints of sexual harassment (one failed, incidentally, to be upheld while the other was made by a female colleague eight years after the alleged incident).
Following his dismissal, the Lord Chancellor's department reviewed his position as a magistrate and declared him fit to continue as a JP.
But, significantly for the racing world, when Buffham cleared his desk at the Jockey Club, he snaffled a dossier of secret 'corruption' files and the fur has been flying ever since.
The Jockey Club's confidential documents contain the explicit, untold story of over a decade of corruption in the `Sport of Kings'.
They also raise serious questions about the Jockey Club's ability to regulate the sport properly. At the heart of the Panorama investigation is a profile of Brian Wright, the London gangster (now on the run) who, according to Buffham, corrupted "a whole generation of jockeys".
Wright was a prolific gambler, often betting tens of thousands of pounds on one race. He began paying jockeys like Dermot Browne, Graham Bradley, and Barrie Wright (no relation) for exclusive insider racing tips.
He then bribed jockeys to fix races for him (including at the Cheltenham Festival, says Browne: "The bigger the race the bigger the monies at stake...We didn't see it as corruption, we just saw it as part and parcel of the racing world".
Dermot Browne also reveals how he was paid by Wright to dope 27 horses in 1990. And all of this was going on, ultimately, at the expense of the punters.
The jockey closest to Brian Wright was Graham Bradley, widely considered to be one of the most accomplished (and influential) horsemen of his generation.
The Jockey Club files offer a damning account of Bradley's penchant for mixing with criminals. A confidential report from 1999 records an occasion at a London casino when Bradley took £10,000 in gambling chips from an Asian criminal.
The criminal later told the police that Bradley "controls" about 12 jockeys. They arrange to fix races or report on races in which they are "not off" (certain to lose). This information is then passed on to a number of people including bookmakers who pay for the information.
Until his gang was arrested for drug smuggling in 1999, the Jockey Club always had the power to remove Brian Wright from racing under their "warning off" rule, but they never used it.
This fact is staggering, given that a Jockey Club document exists which reveals that they've been watching him corrupt the sport since 1985. This was when they first identified him as "a well known criminal...placing large each way bets on behalf of the jockey David Dutton".
Crucially, in 1996 the Jockey Club introduced a new rule, the Fit and Proper Persons Rule, designed specifically to give them the power to take licenses off suspect jockeys like Bradley.
But in the six years that the rule has been in place, only one license has been withdrawn, that of an amateur jockey running a brothel in Scotland. The Jockey Club has said that Bradley will soon be disciplined, but it's really too little, too late.
In 1996, following the notorious Man Mood race at Warwick, William Hill submitted (to the Jockey Club) then withdrew a detailed statement in which their chief betting officer Mick Norris had concluded "this bore all the hallmarks of being a fixed and crooked race".
The withdrawal by William Hill of this statement (to this day unexplained) forced a major Jockey Club investigation into alleged corruption in horseracing to collapse.
But, amazingly, no action was taken against William Hill. Furthermore, in 1998 the Jockey Club found out that secret "no-lose" betting accounts had been offered to trainers by the "Gentleman Bookie" Victor Chandler.
Incidentally it is in the Chandler case that a clue is offered as to why Roger Buffham was so viciously lampooned by the racing press during his nine years at the Jockey Club.
He was dubbed "Buffham the Buffoon" by one columnist and regarded by many as overly-suspicious, a man who when he smelt flowers looked for a coffin. But some in the racing press may have been spitting their venom more out of paranoia than conviction.
For when Victor Chandler went to the High Court in an attempt to stop Panorama from broadcasting the use of his "no-lose account" letters, there was an unexpected twist to the tale. And it was provided by the former Telegraph racing columnist, Tony Stafford.
In support of Chandler's gagging attempt, Stafford submitted a statement in which he said: "Prior to December 2000...special arrangements...were common among many major bookmakers and some trainers."
Then, and here is the twist, he went on to say: "Another not generally known issue is the convention that certain 'insider' racing journalists, expect and get preferential odds on certain ante-post events in exchange for positive publicity for the major bookmakers which provide these opportunities."
No wonder this industry was so quick to close ranks when investigative journalists came sniffing round.
For its supporters and participants racing represents an ancient and honourable sport made magical by its mercurial edge.
But the industry and in particular the Jockey Club cannot continue to suppose that it is beyond scrutiny.
To be fair, the Club has introduced new rules and a new integrity review committee to address the issue of how vulnerable racing is to crime, but it all feels a bit like a hinge-creaking attempt to shut the stable door. The horse bolted years ago.
The Jockey Club may wish to dismiss this programme as a "bit of fluff", but it should be remembered that two High Court judges ruled that it was in the public interest that this programme should be shown.
Ominously, one of the Judges suggested that the problems are continuing ones. The problem for the Jockey Club is that this awkward "bit of fluff" might just stick in the turf's throat for an irritably long time.
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