Chris Cook

Author's posts

Nov 22

Talking Horses: Hooray for declaring wind ops, whether they work or not

Racing’s ruling body has come up with another punter-friendly initiative, for all that we’ll have to work hard to make good use of itIt’s great to learn that wind ops will have to be declared in the future and the British Horseracing Authority is due p…

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Nov 16

Talking Horses: ruing the missing evidence in the Hughie Morrison case

It has been reported that potentially vital CCTV evidence from a racecourse will not be available at the high-profile hearingIt was reported at the weekend, and has since gone unchallenged by the British Horseracing Authority, that the Hughie Morrison …

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Nov 13

MP alleges ‘basic’ failures in BHA’s handling of Hughie Morrison case

• Richard Benyon says BHA has not provided necessary information to trainer• BHA says its investigation processes are ‘fair, open and transparent’A Conservative MP has expressed serious concern over the way racing’s ruling body conducts investigations …

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Nov 08

Questions raised over whether David Evans breached training licence

• Acceptance of enhanced odds from Ladbrokes not challenged at hearing• BHA says inquiry was about betting activity not relationship with bookmakerDavid Evans appears to have breached a condition of his training licence in accepting enhanced odds from …

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Nov 06

David Evans fined £3,000 in curious case of Black Dave and Tango Sky

• Trainer doomed himself in conversation when placing bet with Ladbrokes• Evans describes British Horseracing Authority’s fine as ‘very lenient’David Evans described as “very lenient” the fine of £3,000 meted out to him by racing’s ruling body after th…

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Sep 07

Jim Best attacks British Horseracing Authority after Brighton dispute

• Formerly suspended trainer wrongly refused entry to Brighton races
• Best believes BHA still holds a grudge though ruling body denies this

Jim Best believes the British Horseracing Authority is still out to get him following a mortifying return to the racecourse on Monday when he was initially refused entry to Brighton by an angry gateman. Best reports that he was then tracked around the grounds by green-jacketed BHA officials, although the sport’s ruling body denies such a thing.

Best’s licence to train was suspended at the end of last year after a disciplinary panel decided he told a jockey to stop two horses but he was never banned from the sport and was permitted to go racing even during his suspension, which ended in June. In the event, Best stayed away from racecourses while suspended but made his return to the track on Monday at the invitation of a friend, the trainer Emma Owen, who had a horse running there.

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Sep 03

ARC deny claims stalls handlers are put at risk by inexperienced recruits

• ‘Experienced guys being let go and new guys with no idea getting jobs’
• Godolphin and Charlie Austin enjoy Group success in Turkey

Stalls handlers are being put at risk because some new recruits to the job lack sufficient experience of working with horses, The Guardian has been told. According to two men who have done the job and remain in touch with others who still do it, handlers employed by ARC often lack the skills to ensure the job can be done safely, a charge which ARC denies.

The accusation comes at a particularly sensitive time for those who load racehorses into the starting stalls, two months after the death of Stephen Yarborough, who suffered fatal injuries when run over by the stalls as they were manoeuvered into position at Haydock. That accident, which remains the subject of an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive, involved a team of handlers employed by Racetech, not ARC, which employs its own teams at just five tracks: Doncaster, Windsor, Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton.

Related: Godolphin line up Masar for next year’s Classics after Sandown success

Related: Horse racing in the Australian desert at Birdsville – in pictures

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Aug 31

BHA’s judgment again in question during its pursuit of trainer Jim Best

• Ruling body alerted police over journalist’s call to witness jockey
• Churchill’s opposition thinning out for Irish Champion Stakes

Police were called in by the British Horseracing Authority to investigate what was imagined to be a suspicious phone call to the jockey Paul John, who was a key BHA witness in a disciplinary hearing at the time. After some investigation by officers of the Devon and Cornwall force, it emerged the caller was a journalist with the Racing Post, seeking comment from the jockey.

The BHA’s seeming over-reaction, recorded in documents seen by the Guardian, did not end there during its troubled and contentious pursuit of the trainer Jim Best last year. The Devon‑based John was to be their sole witness against Best and BHA officials appear to have decided he was therefore at risk, even though its then integrity director, Adam Brickell, noted in one document that no threat had been made.

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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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