Chris Cook

Author's details

Name: Chris Cook
Date registered: October 11, 2014
URL: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/british-horseracing-authority

Latest posts

  1. BHA comes under fire after John Wainwright is cleared in corruption case — August 17, 2017
  2. News and tips: BHA to publish non-runner league table in October — August 16, 2017
  3. Charlie McBride will pay part of fine for wrong horse fiasco out of winnings — August 10, 2017
  4. Extra scanning at British racecourses to avoid another wrong horse fiasco — August 9, 2017
  5. Talking Horses: Jockeys resist idea of saunas being taken from tracks — July 18, 2017

Author's posts listings

Aug 17

BHA comes under fire after John Wainwright is cleared in corruption case

• Ruling body slammed for its ‘win at all costs’ approach
• Jockey Adam Carter, stable lad and gambler all guilty

A furious row has broken out between racing’s ruling body and a firm of solicitors whose client, the Yorkshire trainer John Wainwright, was cleared of corruption by a disciplinary panel on Thursday. The British Horseracing Authority was forced to deny an accusation that it had a “win at all costs” attitude to disciplinary cases, following the end of a case in which the evidence of the former jockey Adam Carter proved to be unreliable.

Carter was found guilty of a stopping ride on Blazeofenchantment at Southwell in June 2014, described by the independent disciplinary panel as “about as blatant an example of a non-trier as one could get”. His friend Paul Bradley, a stable lad, admitted Carter had told him of his intention to stop the horse and that he then passed that information on to a gambler, Peter Bennett. Bennett denied corruption charges but was found by the panel to have layed the horse through a betting exchange, risking £1,999 to win £2,000 when the horse finished unplaced. Carter, Bradley and Bennett were found guilty of engaging in a corrupt or fraudulent practice, their punishments to be determined after additional procedure.

Related: Adam Carter tells horse ‘stopping’ inquiry his ride was due to ‘brain fade’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/aug/17/bha-under-fire-after-john-wainwright-cleared-of-corruption

Aug 16

News and tips: BHA to publish non-runner league table in October

• Move to reduce withdrawal numbers welcomed by punter and jockey bodies
• We’ve always favoured a targeted approach, says NTF’s Rupert Arnold

A league table showing which trainers are most likely to have non-runners will be published by the sport’s ruling body in October and updated regularly as part of a determined push to reduce withdrawal numbers. The news was welcomed by bodies representing punters and jockeys and met with a more guarded welcome from the National Trainers Federation, which has managed to water down some of the proposals in consultation with the British Horseracing Authority.

But the league table, which will leave no doubt as to which trainers have the highest ratio of non-runners to entrants, meets with the NTF’s approval, even though a small number of its members could be embarrassed by the outcome and will be at risk of losing their right to self-certify that a horse is lame or otherwise unfit to run. “It fits with the policy we have had over non-runners,” said Rupert Arnold, the NTF chief executive. “We’ve always favoured a targeted approach, rather than changes to the rules that would affect everybody.

Related: John Gosden’s plea fails to move BHA panel on Rab Havlin French drug ban

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/aug/16/news-and-tips-bha-publish-non-runner-league-table-october

Aug 10

Charlie McBride will pay part of fine for wrong horse fiasco out of winnings

• Trainer had ‘fun bet’ of £10 each-way on 50-1 ‘winner’ at Yarmouth
• Disciplinary panel had ‘some difficulty’ in believing handler’s story

The trainer who embarrassed racing by saddling the wrong horse to victory at Yarmouth a fortnight ago has said he will use the proceeds of a bet on the “winner” to help pay his fine. Charlie McBride was fined £1,500 at a disciplinary panel hearing on Thursday, having told the panel he had had a “fun bet” of £10 each-way at 50-1.

“I’m still £1,000 out of pocket,” McBride said, cheerfully. “I’ve no complaints. I expected it to be something like that anyway, because of all the outcry in the press and everything. But it was an honest mistake and it could happen to anybody.”

Related: Extra scanning at British racecourses to avoid another wrong horse fiasco

Related: Wrong horse wins race: investigation into Yarmouth impostor controversy

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/aug/10/charlie-mcbride-fine-wrong-horse-yarmouth-bet-winnings-horse-racing

Aug 09

Extra scanning at British racecourses to avoid another wrong horse fiasco

• Nick Rust said BHA’s decision for more scanning is interim measure
• Ribchester will miss Sunday’s Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville

Extra scanning was put in place on Wednesday at Britain’s racecourses in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the hugely embarrassing ‘wrong horse’ fiasco at Yarmouth a fortnight ago, when a three-year-old won a race that was supposedly confined to two-year-olds. Officials began scanning every runner as it left the racecourse stables to walk to the parade ring in order to ensure that it was indeed the horse whose name appeared in the racecard.

Since the first microchipping of racehorses 18 years ago, horses have routinely been scanned on arrival at the track but not thereafter. The flaw in that system was exposed when Millie’s Kiss ran at Yarmouth in the name of her stablemate Mandarin Princess, winning at 50-1. The mistake was discovered too late for stewards to intervene and change the result.

Related: Josephine Gordon will not follow Turner lead and ride in France this winter

Related: Action needed to stop stable staff urinating on horses’ bedding, says trainer

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/aug/09/scanning-bha-wrong-horse-fiasco-nick-rust-bha-barney-roy

Jul 18

Talking Horses: Jockeys resist idea of saunas being taken from tracks

Racing’s chief medical adviser foresees a future without saunas at the track but accepts it is a long-term vision

Unexpectedly, saunas have become a source of tension within racing this summer. Twice this month, I’ve heard from jockeys worried about suggestions that racecourse saunas are to be removed, perhaps to be replaced by the healthier alternative of exercise bikes.

Related: Sarah Harrison the punters’ champion at the Gambling Commission

Related: Frankie Dettori scales back race riding to be fit for Glorious Goodwood

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/18/talking-horses-jockeys-reject-idea-of-saunas-being-taken-from-tracks

Jun 11

Racing news and tips: Suzi Best still awaits licence hearing after six months

• BHA schedule her hearing for last day of Jim Best’s suspension
• Timing is pure coincidence, British Horseracing Authority officials say

Racing’s ruling body has denied undue delay in considering a licence application by Suzi Best, wife of Jim, whose licence to train was suspended at the end of a protracted and troubled non-trier case last year. The Guardian can reveal that Suzi Best’s application will now be considered at a hearing on 19 June, the very last day on which her husband is suspended.

Privately British Horseracing Authority officials insist this is nothing more than a coincidence and certainly does not amount to evidence of victimisation. They are prevented from offering any direct comment by the rules of racing, which insist that licensing proceedings are confidential and must not be discussed in public by either side.

Related: Jim Best: ‘All the fun I’ve had over the years has been taken out of me’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/11/jim-best-british-horseracing-authority-suzi-licence-application-horse-racing-tips

Jan 30

Many Clouds’ fate could not have been predicted, insists BHA vet

• Postmortem reveals National winner died of severe pulmonary haemorrhage
• ‘Episodes like this are rare,’ says Tony Welsh of Cheltenham death

Many Clouds died of a severe pulmonary haemorrhage, or acute bleeding from the lung, a postmortem has revealed. In light of the finding, a senior racing vet has insisted there was no connection between the horse’s sudden death and incidents earlier in his career when he had appeared unsteady on his feet in the moments after some races.

In the immediate aftermath of his collapse at Cheltenham on Saturday, some questioned whether Many Clouds should have been allowed to continue racing, having staggered after his 2015 Grand National win and again last year after a Kelso success. But Tony Welsh, who is acting senior veterinary officer to the British Horseracing Authority, could hardly have been more emphatic in saying that Many Clouds’s fate could not have been predicted.

Related: Many Clouds’ lights went out then I said my goodbyes, says Leighton Aspell

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jan/30/many-clouds-bha-vet-postmortem-tony-welsh-cheltenham-horse-racing

Jan 21

Second senior lawyer departs BHA in wake of Jim Best case

• BHA: no connection between Best case and departure of Hannah McLean
• BHA has lost two of the three most senior lawyers in its integrity department

A second senior lawyer has left the integrity department of racing’s ruling body in the wake of last year’s series of embarrassments related to the Jim Best case. Officials at the British Horseracing Authority say there is no connection between those travails and the departure of Hannah McLean, whose job title was “Head of Legal: Regulation”, in which role she led on prosecution and compliance matters.

However, the BHA declined to offer any on-the-record comment. Privately, an official suggested McLean has landed an excellent role elsewhere and her exit was regretted.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jan/21/second-senior-lawyer-departs-bha-in-wake-of-jim-best-case

Jan 17

Horse racing and betting industries representatives pledge to work together

• Key figures respond to government’s weekend levy announcement
• Ladbrokes PR director sounds conciliatory note over future plans

Representatives of horse racing and betting have suggested the two industries must make renewed efforts at working together, following the government’s decision about a levy replacement scheme, announced on Saturday. The sports minister, Tracey Crouch, ruled that betting operators should pay 10% of their gross racing profits to the sport, which will bring to an end the hotly debated Authorised Betting Partners initiative and leave the two sides with significantly less scope for dispute.

Racing officials expect the new regime will increase the sport’s income by as much as £30m per year on recent years, now that online betting with offshore firms is to be captured. But they hope the benefit may outstrip even such an impressive figure by restoring certainty of income, allowing for planned, long-term investment and instilling confidence in potential investors.

Related: Government announces long-awaited levy reform boost for racing

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jan/17/horse-racing-betting-industries-pledge-work-together-replacement-levy-scheme

Dec 22

Jim Best: ‘All the fun I’ve had over the years has been taken out of me’

Jim Best says he has been left demoralised and disillusioned by the BHA’s case against him and maintains his innocence despite last week’s guilty verdict

Lenient is a word that some have used to describe the punishment meted out to the racehorse trainer Jim Best following a decision last week that he had probably told a jockey to lose on two horses, for which his licence will be suspended until June. But the 36-year-old, who maintains his innocence, could hardly look less like a man who has been let off lightly as he discusses the toll taken on his business, his health and his family by the controversial case, which rumbled along for a year, thanks in large part to procedural blunders by the British Horseracing Authority.

Sympathy would be in extremely short supply for anyone who had done what the BHA’s disciplinary panel says Best has done. But Best insists he was stunned to learn that the panel had ruled against him, despite also finding that the only BHA witness, the jockey Paul John, had been untruthful and unreliable.

Related: Jim Best case ends amid bitterness and many questions pointing at BHA

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/dec/22/jim-best-bha-verdict

Dec 22

British Horseracing Authority’s secrecy in Jim Best case proved costly | Chris Cook

Had the BHA got its way none of us would have any idea that a deal had been done in a case of one man’s word against another

As the Jim Best case breathes its last after a year of legal debate and as racing’s ruling body admits it has blown a six-figure sum through its failure to provide a demonstrably fair hearing at the first attempt, it is instructive to see the first concern for some people is the penalty given to the trainer. The British Horseracing Authority has lost a significant chunk of the sport’s money by persisting in an avoidable mistake and there are several worrying aspects to the way it has pursued this case, but the main irritant for several observers is that Best has not been immediately put out of business.

This just goes to show what a strong authoritarian streak runs through horse racing, its practitioners and its followers. It also suggests a failure to engage with some of the details revealed over the past eight months that indicate the respect for due process at the BHA is not all that it might be.

Related: Jim Best says BHA case has torn him to pieces after horse-stopping ban

Related: Jim Best decides not to appeal verdict of BHA disciplinary committee

Related: Jim Best: ‘All the fun I’ve had over the years has been taken out of me’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2016/dec/22/british-horseracing-authority-jim-best-case

Dec 22

Jim Best says BHA case has torn him to pieces after horse-stopping ban

• Trainer says health and family affected after losing licence for six months
• Nick Rust says hearing verdict gives BHA mandate for tougher penalties

Jim Best has spoken for the first time about the effect of the long-running case pursued against him by racing’s ruling body which resulted in a decision last week that he must lose his licence for a six-month period. The Lewes-based trainer, whose case has exposed the British Horseracing Authority’s integrity practices to unprecedented scrutiny, said his health, his business and his family have all suffered during the year-long legal battles, which may yet result in the closure of his stable.

“The whole thing has been painful and agonising,” Best told the Guardian. “You get up each day and you’ve got the feeling as if someone’s died. I know it’s not that dramatic, it’s just how you feel. You just feel absolutely choked up and torn to pieces.”

Related: Jim Best: ‘All the fun I’ve had over the years has been taken out of me’

Related: Jim Best case ends amid bitterness and many questions pointing at BHA

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/dec/22/jim-best-bha-case-ban-horse-stopping

Dec 20

Jim Best decides not to appeal verdict of BHA disciplinary committee

• Lewes-based trainer will not challenge six-month ban
• Harry Stewart-Moore: ‘Best is innocent of the charges against him’

The long-running saga of the British Horseracing Authority’s case against Jim Best appears to be at an end, following the Lewes trainer’s decision not to appeal against the verdict of a disciplinary panel delivered last week. Best loses his licence to train and will not be able to reapply for six months, that being the penalty handed to him after the panel decided he probably had told a jockey to stop two horses.

However, a statement from his solicitor, Harry Stewart-Moore, insisted this was anything but an admission of guilt and threw the spotlight back on the BHA, deriding its disciplinary process. Declining to appeal was, the lawyer said, a practical decision, borne of the recognition a six-month suspension should not mean the end of Best’s business, in sharp contrast to the outright ban of four years which was the original penalty after a hearing in February. That had to be quashed because of significant failings in the BHA’s process, resulting in a rehearing last month.

Related: Thistlecrack and Cue Card to go head-to-head in Kempton’s King George

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/dec/20/jim-best-bha-disciplinary-committee-harry-stewart-moore

Dec 12

Jim Best found guilty by BHA of telling jockey to stop two horses

• Trainer to lose licence for six months after ‘non-triers’ case
• BHA panel said of race videos: ‘These were both stopping rides’

Jim Best is once more facing a period out of racing after a disciplinary panel ruled the Lewes trainer had told a jockey to stop two horses last December, a finding that was first made against him in February and then quashed in May. However, Best still appears likely to have a future in the sport because the penalty meted out to him was dramatically shorter than at the original hearing, amounting to a six-month suspension rather than a four-year ban.

Related: Jim Best case ends amid bitterness and many questions pointing at BHA

Related: Panel insists Jim Best verdict must be revealed at BHA offices on Monday

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/dec/12/jim-best-guilty-bha-stop-two-horses-non-triers-case-horse-racing

Dec 06

Panel insists Jim Best verdict must be revealed at BHA offices on Monday

• No precedent for calling back parties so long after hearing to be told verdict
• Clashes with 32Red media event to promote King George VI Chase

The verdict in the Jim Best rehearing is to be announced on Monday afternoon, more than a fortnight after closing arguments were presented by barristers for both sides. In a surprising development, the outcome is to be revealed at the offices of the British Horseracing Authority in the presence of all those involved and representatives of the media, rather than being posted online in the usual manner.

Related: Hennessy announces end for sponsorship of famous Newbury race

Related: Nicky Henderson hoping Cheltenham dry run will suit My Tent Or Yours

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/dec/06/jim-best-verdict-bha-king-george-vi-chase

Dec 03

Martin Harley lawyer hits back after BHA bungle Chelmsford allegation

• British Horseracing Authority apologises and admits mistakes were made
• Rory Mac Neice: ‘Another example of BHA setting very low bar and missing it’

The integrity wing of racing’s ruling body has come in for further criticism over its handling of a “running and riding” prosecution that has been abandoned just days after it began. The jockey Martin Harley was charged on Tuesday with making insufficient effort in a race – at Chelmsford a fortnight ago – but was immediately able to prove that he gave a complete explanation for his ride to the raceday stewards, which explanation was not shared with the British Horseracing Authority’s head office.

The BHA acknowledged that Harley had no case to answer, the rider having said on the day that his mount, Rebel Lightning, had taken “a wrong step” coming out of a bend and needed time to recover before being asked for a further effort. Stinging criticism for the regulator came from Harley’s solicitor, Rory Mac Neice, who said: “This is another example of the BHA setting themselves a very low bar and missing it.”

Related: ‘Done deal’ claim over Paul John raised at Jim Best rehearing

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/dec/03/martin-harley-bha-chelmsford-british-horseracing-authority-rory-mac-neice