The champion jockey, text messages and £2m in bets - court told
of race-fixing plot
Sunday afternoon the six-times champion jockey Kieren Fallon romped home to a
euphoric victory in Europe's richest horse race, the Prix de L'Arc de
wearing a dark suit and looking pale, the 42-year-old Irishman mounted the
steps up to the dock in court 12 at the Old Bailey to face charges of
race-fixing that could undermine the integrity of the sport.
and two other jockeys - Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams - are accused of
conspiring to lose a total of 27 flat races over two years. The alleged plot
involved three others, including Miles Rodgers, a professional gambler from
South Yorkshire, who placed a total of £2.12m on those races between
December 2002 and August 2004.
The "lay" bets - wagers that a horse would lose - were made on a
leading internet betting exchange called Betfair. But it was because such
colossal sums - frequently more than £100,000 - were placed to win
smaller amounts that suspicions were aroused.
"There was an unlawful
agreement or conspiracy between these defendants, and other persons not known,
that those races should be fixed," Jonathan Caplan QC, for the prosecution,
told the jury.
Miles Rodgers, who had been disqualified by the Jockey
Club for two years, was the "organiser of the conspiracy", he said. "On race
days Mr Rodgers had direct contact by mobile telephone with Fergal Lynch and
Darren Williams. Kieren Fallon was more cautious and Rodgers had indirect
contact with Mr Fallon using as an intermediary, Shaun Lynch ... and latterly
Mr Fallon, the shortest of the six in the dock, leaned
forward intermittently to hear court exchanges, like an eager rider pitched
forward in the saddle. He heard Mr Caplan describe him as "one of the leading
jockeys in the world".
Fergal Lynch rode in six of the 27 suspect
races, the court heard. He won only once and earned the alleged conspirators
£5,000 profit. Darren Williams rode four suspect races and lost every
one, gathering £55,000 in winnings.
Kieren Fallon rode in 17
races. He lost 12 of them but won five - making a net loss for the
"conspirators" of £338,000. "It is important to remember," Mr Caplan
said, "that Rodgers at that time was working with Fergal Lynch and Fallon to
get the conspiracy back into profit by concentrating on their rides in handicap
Mr Williams was alleged to have been given envelopes stuffed
with cash for his part in the plot. There is no evidence that Mr Fallon
received "any money or benefit from Rodgers" but the prosecution believe that
was because at that stage he had cost the "conspirators" money. "The inference
to be drawn," Mr Caplan added, "is that he was clearly involved for reward."
The plan was not foolproof because jockeys "could not always stop the
horse ... if it would look too obvious", the court was told. "A horse race is a
dynamic event and anything can happen but the plan worked most of the time."
The "most common method of interference" would be to ensure the horse
"does not run on its merits". One example would be for a jockey to deliberately
ride into "a wall of other horses". The rider could also miss the start by
delaying taking off the horse's hood, "fail to ride vigorously" or "slow the
intensity of his efforts".
Mr Fallon, the court was told, often
discussed the prospects of his rides with Fergal and Shaun Lynch but his
position was that he was "completely unaware" that they passed this information
on to Mr Rodgers. He also passed on tips to Mr Sherkle because he thought he
was putting "his own couple of quid" on them.
The accused all deny the
defrauding charges. Some admit to having been in contact "for the innocent
purpose of passing on tips or betting information".
Because it was a
criminal conspiracy that sought to leave no records, Mr Caplan said, the
prosecution would rely on the pattern of telephone calls, text messages, and
bets to show "a criminal conspiracy ... to fix numerous horse races ... to the
detriment of the betting public".
Using the example of Goodwood Spirit,
a horse ridden at Goodwood by Mr Fallon on August 14 2004, Mr Caplan showed
text messages had been exchanged between Mr Fallon, Mr Sherkle and Mr Rodgers
on the morning of the race.
The text sent by Mr Sherkle and later
recovered from Mr Rodgers' mobile read: "6.55 no4 n." The "6.55" was alleged to
refer to the race time, "no4" referred to the horse's position on the racecard
in that day's Racing Post and "n" supposedly meant "non-tryer".It had allegedly
been forwarded from Kieren Fallon.
The court also heard that Mr Fallon
had sent a "revealing" series of text messages the day after winning a race he
was supposed to have lost. One message to Mr Sherkle in July 2004 read: "They
will take my licences off me if they drift like that last night. They are
The case continues.
Six in the dock Kieren Fallon 42, now living in Tipperary, in the Republic of
Ireland. The most successful flat race jockey of his generation. He was stable
jockey for trainer Sir Michael Stoute in Newmarket, Cambridgeshire. He has
known the Lynch brothers since childhood in County Clare, Ireland Miles
Rodgers 38, a professional gambler from Barnsley, South Yorkshire,
described as the "organiser of this conspiracy". He was disqualified by the
Jockey Club and was supposed to have no contact with licensed jockeys. Fallon
had ridden for him in the past Fergal Lynch 29, of Boroughbridge,
North Yorkshire. A licensed jockey who rode for the trainer Kevin Ryan
Shaun Lynch 37, of Belfast. Fergal's older brother, he had worked
for a number of bookmakers. The brothers shared a cottage within a stable
complex in Minskip, North Yorkshire Darren Williams, 29, a licensed
jockey who lived in Leyburn, North Yorkshire Philip Sherkle 42, a
barman and former employee in a furniture shop in Dublin. Lives in Tamworth,
Staffordshire, with his wife and children. He told police he met Fallon through
the owner of a pub in Newmarket, Cambridgeshire