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Blockley and McKeown banned for corruption 24/10/2008
Chris Cook

Eight men, including the trainer Paul Blockley and the jockey Dean McKeown, were warned off yesterday as racing's latest corruption inquiry came to a close.

A disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority painted a grim picture of a gambling den in which conspirators would cheer the defeat of horses they had bet against before phoning unnamed racing professionals to say "job done".

McKeown, 48, was warned off for four years and Blockley for two and a half, both having been found to be part of a conspiracy that made a net profit of £61,909 from lay bets on the Betfair betting exchange. There was no evidence that either man gained from the gambling, which was carried out by others after Blockley and McKeown had provided them with inside information. The panel recommended that Blockley be allowed to work in racing stables for other trainers.

Clive Whiting, a racehorse owner, was warned off for eight years. David Wright and Nicholas Rook were warned off for six. Three others were warned off for shorter periods, while owner Derek Lovatt, who gave evidence against a number of his fellow defendants, was fined £20,000.

The panel found that, from early 2004, several of the conspirators would frequently gather in the boardroom of Whiting's company, Palmers of Trent Bridge, which sells conservatories, to gamble and watch races on television.

According to the panel, Lovatt described "lay bets being placed by Rook on the new computer Clive Whiting had bought, and of Clive Whiting's close involvement and funding of this. [Lovatt] described also the enthusiasm with which defeats of Clive Whiting-owned horses were sometimes received.

"And he heard calls after such races between Clive Whiting and persons he believed to be a jockey or trainer in which the message was 'job done'. It became clear to the panel that these calls included contacts with Blockley."

It has emerged since the hearing that much video footage of the 11 races involved had been destroyed years ago, as the BHA had not acted in time to preserve it. The panel noted that this was "surprising" but stopped short of explicitly condemning the BHA's security department.

Despite the limited amount of footage available, the panel was able to find that McKeown did not make sufficient effort on four horses involved in the case. It concluded that, in three of the races, McKeown mimed hitting the horse with his whip, in fact delivering air-shots. "There was no honest explanation for this piece of deception," the panel added.

Blockley said afterwards that he needed time to consider an appeal.

McKeown, who represented himself at a six-day hearing before the panel, appeared downbeat about his chances of reversing the decision, saying: "If I appeal, I'll just be appearing in front of three more BHA members."

Asked if he had faith in the disciplinary process, he responded: "Absolutely none and I don't think anyone in racing does. It's like the Mugabe situation in Zimbabwe - they're not willing to take notice of anything they don't agree with. I'm pretty shocked by what's gone on."
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