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Trainer and jockey in new corruption case 02/5/2008
Chris Cook

Trainer Paul Blockley and jockey Dean McKeown were among nine people charged with corruption offences by the British Horseracing Authority yesterday, the result of a long-running investigation. The charges relate to 11 races that took place between March 2004 and December 2005, in each of which Blockley trained one of the beaten runners.

Blockley and McKeown are accused of passing on inside information to seven named individuals, five of them racehorse owners, who are then said to have laid (ie taken bets on) the horses concerned through the Betfair betting exchange. In relation to four of the races, trainer and jockey are also charged with breaches of the 'non-triers' rules.

McKeown rode the Blockley-trained runner in eight of the races. The BHA said there was no evidence against Fergal Lynch or Ian Mongan, who rode for Blockley in the other three races.

Among the owners charged are David Wright and Marcus Reeder, both of whom have already served separate bans for laying their own horses. Each claimed at the time that he had not known it was against the rules for owners to profit by laying their own horses.

Blockley, described as "stunned and angry" in a statement yesterday, has his own history of problems with the authorities. His licence was withdrawn in 1995 after he, in his own words, "ran out of money". Similar problems ended a brief spell as a trainer in Belgium, where unpaid debts led to his being warned off.

Soon after his return to Britain, he was handed a further ban for attending the races while a disqualified person. Blockley finally recovered his licence in 2003.

The investigation is similar to several others pursued by the BHA in recent years, resulting in the disqualification of a dozen jockeys and a trainer, as well as many unlicensed individuals. However, it is the first such case to be announced since the collapse of the Kieren Fallon trial at the Old Bailey, widely seen as a humiliating blow to the BHA's security department and its head, Paul Scotney.

"What this shows is that it's business as usual for us, nothing's changed," said Scotney yesterday in a vigorous assertion of his department's effectiveness. "When you watch racing now, compared to three years ago, is it cleaner? I don't think there's any doubt that it is."

Scotney admitted his regret that it has taken so long to bring the case but said a lack of co-operation from the accused individuals was largely responsible. The need to speed up such investigations is likely to be highlighted by an independent review of BHA procedures, set up in October at the beginning of the Fallon trial and due to report next week.

Corruption charges were also issued yesterday against the travelling head lad of high-profile jumps trainer Nicky Richards. Neil Leach is accused of passing inside information to an unlicensed person, who then laid Richards-trained runners through Betfair.

Dates are awaited for preliminary hearings into both cases and any final judgment remains months away.

A BHA spokesman said that no further cases of any great size are outstanding but investigations are continuing into at least four other potentially suspect races.
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