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Last Updated: Friday, 7 December 2007, 16:54 GMT
Cornelius Lysaght column
Fallon can afford a smile after the collapse of his race-fixing trial
Fallon can afford a smile after the collapse of his race-fixing trial

By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC racing correspondent

Racing regulators have a new name since the police were first brought in by the Jockey Club early in 2004.

But in their new guise, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) must take much of the blame arising from the fiasco of the collapsed race-fixing trial.

When the Jockey Club instigated this ill-fated investigation by passing on what was believed to be evidence of malpractice to City of London detectives early in 2004, extreme caution was advised.

Throughout the racing industry, memories were bright of a previous, unhappy experience with the long arm of the law.

In 1998 police had arrested of a number of jockeys as part of an inquiry into a doping scandal, sparking lurid headlines that damaged severely racing's image, but achieved nothing else.

A repeat would, the authorities were warned, risk causing considerable anger if once again everything ended in little but embarrassment.

Kieren Fallon surrounded by reporters after his acquittal
Fallon was surrounded by reporters after his acquittal

Stand by for the anticipated anger.

I'm sure officials will argue that not only did they set the ball rolling in good faith, but that it was the police - and ultimately the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) - that decided to proceed to court, and not them.

Why then was this perilous route taken?

The police never really understood what horse racing was all about - embarrassingly, one of their senior officers admitted as much during the trial - and went up a blind alley. The CPS followed.

Presumably, the racing authorities imagined they knew what they were doing.

The police should have never been involved in this, and the great irony is that racing's regulators have shown themselves very capable of dealing with online betting exchange-related miscreants over the last year or so.

606: DEBATE
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A series of bans have been handed down, though continued vigilance is clearly required because the exchanges, which are here to stay, obviously make abuse of the system easier.

Presumably somebody, possibly BHA security chief Paul Scotney, will now carry the can.

Meanwhile, his department will seek to salvage its crushed reputation after a shambles that has probably set it back years.

And, can anybody see the police ever getting involved again? Not likely guv, after this and the previous, disastrous inquiry.

And even if they wanted to, they'd struggle to gain one iota of support from within the industry.

Meanwhile, after more than three wasted years of basically unnecessary bad publicity and suspicion, the upcoming New Year should mean a fresh start for racing as a whole, with a line drawn boldly under this whole wretched affair.



SEE ALSO
Jockeys acquitted of race-fixing
07 Dec 07 |  UK News
Fallon cleared to ride in Britain
07 Dec 07 |  Horse Racing
Jockey Fallon's rollercoaster ride
07 Dec 07 |  Horse Racing
The case of the missing notes
07 Dec 07 |  UK News


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