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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 April 2007, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Racing's 'Mr Big'
By Frank Keogh

Brian Brendan Wright
Brian Wright pictured on his balcony in west London
He was known as "The Milkman" - but the exploits of drugs baron and millionaire gambler Brian Wright left a sour taste in the world of horse racing.

The 60-year-old, who lived up to his nickname because he "always delivered", has been convicted at Woolwich Crown Court of a multi-million pound cocaine smuggling operation and jailed for 30 years.

He delivered some knockout blows to bookmakers but his betting coups saw the Irishman being banned from the sport for tapping up jockeys for inside information.

Wright's activities ultimately led to the downfall of Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning rider Graham Bradley.

Famous friends

Brian Brendon Wright was a familiar face at racecourses in the 1980s and early 1990s, a man with celebrity associates and a network of contacts to place bets for him.

But he had made his money from drug trafficking and used his gambling habit as a cover to help launder the cash.

Wright rented an expensive apartment in Chelsea and owned a plush Spanish villa. He called it El Lechero - Spanish for The Milkman.

He had a private box at Royal Ascot, claiming to net 400,000 annually from betting at that one track alone.

The good times rolled until Irish Customs seized a huge consignment of cocaine in 1998. The trail led to Wright, who was kept under surveillance for several months and fled to northern Cyprus as the net closed in.

I'm a serious gambler who has made a lot of money backing my opinion

Wright, quoted in Graham Bradley's autobiography

His racing dealings were exposed at a court case, and it was only a matter of time before the sport's rulers - who already had a file on Wright - stepped in.

They were moved to act after the BBC's Panorama programme in 2002, entitled The Corruption of Horse Racing, named Wright as a central race-fixing figure.

Former jockey and trainer Dermot Browne, known as racing's 'needle man', told the documentary he was paid by Wright to dope horses.

Browne said he and other jockeys were offered cash, cocaine and prostitutes to fix races.

A security review was ordered by the Jockey Club, which later banned Wright from racecourses for at least 20 years.

Inside information

The club's disciplinary committee said Wright had run an outfit which would bet large sums "with the benefit of inside information procured from jockeys and others".

It ruled that Bradley and "numerous" other jockeys passed on inside information and in return, were entertained "on a lavish scale to keep them 'sweet'."

Former jockey Bradley is serving a five-year ban from racing
Former jockey Bradley is serving a five-year ban from racing
One of Wright's closest contacts in horse racing was Graham Bradley.

But Bradley helped seal his own demise when he stood by his friend Wright during the court case of an associate, and devoted a chapter to him in his autobiography, The Wayward Lad.

Bradley noted his friend's charm and hospitality, saying Wright always carried a roll of notes that "would choke a donkey".

He said Wright was known as "Uncle" in the world of big-time gamblers, but their association saw Bradley serving a five-year ban for passing on inside information.

The jockey, a Gold Cup winner on Bregawn in 1983, said Wright was born in Cork but moved to Cricklewood, north London, with his parents when he was 12.

'Shrewd observer'

Wright spent time in borstal before developing a keen interest in racing. He boasted of successful gambles, such as making 40,000 on a low-key Monday night at Windsor.

But Bradley said: "Despite his high-profile punting, he is a very under-stated person. He's a shrewd observer of both people and horses with a mind that's sharp as a tack."

Wright showed Bradley the high life, helping him gain membership of exclusive nightclub Tramp, where they once spent time with Frank Sinatra.

In his book Bradley even said he tried to get the 1987 Cheltenham Gold Cup called off because ground conditions had turned against his mount Forgive 'n Forget - the third leg of a Wright betting treble.

BRIAN WRIGHT'S BACKGROUND
Moved: To England from Ireland, 1958, aged 12
Where: First lived in Cricklewood. Later in Twickenham and Frimley, Surrey; and Chelsea Harbour
Gambling: Said he made 100,000 from a bet on two horses in 1973 after advice from ex-Arsenal footballer Arthur Shaw
As it snowed, Bradley pleaded without success to the starter: "We've got to think about safety."

Although Wright's bet went down, the jockey said there were no recriminations.

"Brian Wright is no saint - he'd laugh at the very thought - but in all the time I've been associated with him, he has never compromised me and I've never had a better friend," said Bradley, in the biography, which was published in 2000.

Mix the tale of Wright with unconnected past and ongoing race-fixing inquiries, and the casual observer might write off horse racing as a "bent sport".

Opportunities for corruption in the game, which feeds off gossip and information, have increased in the 21st century where the internet means punters can play bookmaker and "lay" horses (effectively winning by backing losers).

At one stage, the Jockey Club was accused of turning a blind eye, but racing corruption expert Richard Griffiths outlined its concerns.

In his book, Racing in the Dock, Griffiths reported that the Jockey Club made a frank, confidential submission to the Government-appointed Gambling Review Group in 2000.

The blame for corruption was laid firmly with Wright, even though he had been arrested and cleared from doping and race-fixing investigations carried out by the police.

It talks of criminals cementing relationships with racing figures by offering cash, plus hospitality in clubs, casinos and massage parlours.

'Corrupted jockeys'

"A person with connections to organised crime, both in the UK and abroad, is strongly suspected to have corrupted jockeys and trainers during the last 10 years," it said.

The Jockey Club added: "One leading bookmaker has estimated that up to 1bn a year is bet illegally."

The Horseracing Regulatory Authority, which took over some of the Jockey Club's old duties, now employs a team of seven investigators to monitor suspicious betting activities.

New measures in recent years include greater weighing room security, enhanced camera coverage of racecourse stables, restrictions on jockeys using mobile phones and a ban on trainers laying horses on internet betting sites.



SEE ALSO
Cocaine trafficking boss guilty
02 Apr 07 |  London
Court rejects Bradley ban appeal
12 Jul 05 |  Horse Racing


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