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Kevin Smith

New JC Regulations Aim to Preserve Integrity of UK Racing

22 July 2003

Rules forbidding horse owners, trainers and other stable workers from laying horses to lose races in which they have a vested interest will go into effect Sept. 1 of this year.

The new regulations, introduced this week by the U.K. Jockey Club, are designed to curb skullduggery via betting exchanges. Some in the industry question the ease in which those with inside information can bet a horse to lose knowing full well it has little or no chance of winning.

Julian Richmond-Watson, senior steward of the Jockey Club, said the regulations are the result of in-depth research into betting exchanges conducted by the JC's Integrity Review Committee. Those findings, he said, led to the recommendation of rules making it an offense for trainers to lay their own horses to lose.

"In following up this recommendation," Richmond-Watson added, "we also considered the situation regarding stable staff and owners."

Mark Davies, a spokesperson for P2P service, said his company is supportive of the new regulations ,but predicts some problems could still arise.

"Ultimately it is for the JC to make the rules, and we will support them in that, but in our view it somewhat misses the point if you don't stop them from betting on races where they have an interest, period," he said. "One high-profile owner backed the second favorite to his horse, Barracuda, at Cheltebham, which is clearly tantamount to laying his own in what was basically a two-horse race."

Davies hinted that the change in regulations could be a knee-jerk reaction to current news that a pair of stable workers made a small fortune on betting exchanges by laying horses they knew had no chance to win.

"Backing and laying are two sides of the same coin, and our view is that you should deal with the cause of a problem rather than dealing with a perception that arises from something inherent in the sport," he said. "But whatever rules the JC makes, we will help them to uphold."

Richmond-Watson said Betfair and other exchanges were consulted during the process and that the rules will ultimately help racing's image.

"We believe racing's integrity and the public's confidence in the sport would be best served by a clearly defined ban on owners, trainers and stable staff laying horses in which they have an interest," she said.

Rule 241 of the rules of racing enables the Jockey Club to request any individual subject to the rules of racing access to their betting accounts. Since June, several betting exchanges have signed a memorandum of understanding giving the Jockey Club access to betting information on races that are the subject of concern.

Officials with the Jockey Club indicated that for the purposes of the rule change, the term "owner" is likely to include any person who would have any financial interest in any prize money that might be won by the horse in question in the race in question. However, drafting of the precise wording to accompany this rule has not been completed.

Davies isn't the only one concerned about the new regulations.

Michael Harris, chief executive of the Racehorse Owners' Association, told the Racing Post he was disappointed in the JC's about-face on the issue and doubts the new rules will be enforceable.

The ROA feels owners should be able to lay horses they own to hedge the liabilities of owning a horse.

The JC indicated early in the review process that they would consider this as long as the owners don't profit from betting more than they would from a winning a race.

"It was our belief that the exchanges offered owners a legitimate means of hedging their liabilities, but the Jockey Club, while appreciating this point, have taken the view they could not support owners being able to profit from their own horse losing," Harris said.

Harris said he understood the need to address the laying issue but was befuddled that the Jockey Club would make such a drastic change to the rules.

"The fact that the Jockey Club has changed its mind on this matter is disappointing, especially as the ROA thought it had a broad understanding that owners would continue to be able to lay their horses with certain conditions attached," he said. "Having said that, we appreciate there are increasingly serious integrity issues now emerging with regard to the exchanges, and it is therefore no great surprise to us that the Jockey Club have come to this decision."

New JC Regulations Aim to Preserve Integrity of UK Racing is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith