Does Horse Racing Have a ‘Match Fixing’ Problem?

Horse RaceJust last week I was writing about 2022 being the year of betting scandals and match fixing corruption in professional sport.

Brentford striker Ivan Toney was charged with a staggering 232 breaches of football betting rules – an outcome that may well have stopped him being selected for England’s World Cup squad.

In snooker, seven Chinese players – including Masters champion Yan Bingtao – have been suspended on suspicion of ‘manipulating’ the outcome of their games.

Tennis, cricket and basketball have also had their own damaging scandals this year, and now horse racing is under the microscope as 2022 enters its final furlong.

The allegations centre around former jockey Danny Brock, who has been accused of ‘stopping’ horses in nine races between May 2018 and September 2019.

Why? It’s alleged that a betting ring ‘got to him’, and the repercussions for horse racing could be catastrophic for the integrity of the sport.

What Is ‘Stopping’ Horses?

There are ways in which a jockey can prevent a horse running to the full extent of their ability.

They can fail to take a break at the right time, can jump their horses to the right or left or simply fail to utilise their whip for encouragement purposes properly.

Each can be hard to detect, which offers an explanation as to how Brock got away with it for so long.

One of the renewals in which he is suspected of deliberately holding his horse back was a famous two-horse race at Southwell, in which the field was decimated by a ‘protest’ over prize money.

Brock was aboard Samovar, and made a catalogue of mistakes to allow the odds-on favourite, Tricky Dicky, to win comfortably.

The plot thickened. Three associates of Brock – Sean McBride (son of trainer Charlie), Andrew Perring and Eugene Maloney – had bet big on Tricky Dicky, and their return was so sizable that they claimed more than 51% of the Betfair’s entire book on the race.

And prosecutors, representing the British Horseracing Authority, claimed that Brock communicated when he was going to purposely underperform, and they would either back an opponent or lay Brock’s horse accordingly.

All told, it’s thought that a consortium of five punters were in on the grift, and they collectively profited to the tune of thousands of pounds.

The BHA’s prosecution team allege that Brock also delivered stopping rides on Muchalov on a number of occasions, with nine rides in total under scrutiny.

Their barrister, Louis Weston, said at the hearing: “The conspiracy we allege against all of the persons charged before the inquiry is that they engaged or joined in a conspiracy to commit a fraudulent or corrupt practice against the rules of racing.”

Weston also claims the fact that Brock has not attended the hearing, ostensibly due to ‘fears for his safety’, is because he simply does not have a legitimate answer for the charges.

Officially, Brock is alleged to have broken four BHA rules, which include the communication of insider information and failing to ride horses in a way that achieves their best possible placing. The case continues.

Fix or Fair Game?

It’s hard to fix horse races, if you think about it.

You cannot collude with a horse, who will simply run as quickly as they are allowed to.

We know there are techniques jockeys can use to slow down their mount, some of which Brock has been accused of in the case in question.

But eagle-eyed stewards, pundits and former jockeys are knowledgeable about such matters, and they would be expected to flag any suspected nefarious behaviour.

Indeed, if you look through the annals of horse racing history, you won’t find too many examples of fixes being proven beyond all doubt.

Kieren Fallon, a six-time champion jockey in Ireland, has previously been charged with corruption in racing. He was accused of being part of a scam that ‘fixed’ 27 races in the early 2000s. His girlfriend, jockey Kirsty Milczarek, was banned from the saddle for two years as part of that probe.

It would be naïve to think that corruption doesn’t go on in horse racing, and especially amongst those who care more about making money than they do the integrity of this fine sport.