Fallon case shows law is an ass when it comes to horses

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2007, 12:00am

The sensational collapse of the case against champion jockey Kieren Fallon and others in England in recent days has shown again what happens when law enforcement and the judiciary collide with horse racing - and it is rarely pretty for the former.

The presiding judge found a convenient way of letting local law enforcement off the hook for the failed prosecution by highlighting an agreement by Australian steward Ray Murrihy that he is not necessarily an expert on specifically English racing as an 'extraordinary' admission and a strong factor in the collapse.

Murrihy did an honest job in highlighting how he would have proceeded had the same situations occurred in Australia. It was what he was asked to do and requires no defence here.

But the question is: where were the English experts on English racing hiding? Apparently no such creature exists. And why were the police clearly never in touch with anyone with any skills at all in the field of betting?

Such a person might have pointed out to them the foolishness of prosecuting an alleged scam wherein the sure losers, recommended to be laid on betting exchanges, seemed to steam in at a pretty fair rate and the perpetrators lost some serious money.

That surely should have been a flashing light to anyone - anyone relying on something other than a wink and nod and what the bloke down the pub said - that corrupt activity was going to be tough to prove.

Many years ago in Australia, in an episode called The Age tapes, federal law enforcement officers taped a drug dealer in a phone conversation with a jockey, talking about a horse he owned. The jockey told him that his horse had 'pulled up well'. This was interpreted by people without any knowledge of horse racing, including law enforcement, as meaning the horse had been stopped instead of meaning it had recovered well from its race.

A little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but a complete lack of it is a grenade with the pin out, and there was precious little racing knowledge involved in the prosecution case in London. And it isn't alone - this column has seen misguided viewpoints and whispered insinuations wheeled out in evidence in racing cases before the law in Australia, even Hong Kong, in the past with varied results.

In the Chris Munce case, the magistrate placed a great deal of weight on the proposition that a jockey's tip was privileged information, even insider trading, which must still have them giggling up their sleeves on Wall Street or Central, where the inside tips never lose. Choose purgatory over returning in the next life as a jockey's punter, but that view had much to do apparently with why Munce is in jail.

If Fallon did do anything 'wrong' it was being too good a rider on suspect horses, for what many of the supposed 'knock' horses had in common was that they were thieves - unreliable horses going out at short prices with a lifetime record of not running up to expectations. Why wouldn't he recommend them to bet against - he just should have waited until someone else rode them.