Favored Horse Tanks It at Ludlow, Betfair Cooperates

13 October 2003

Champion trainer Martin Pipe finds himself in the middle of a Jockey Club inquiry into "irregular" betting following a hurdle race at Ludlow Thursday in which heavy favorite Intox III flopped.

"We are not judge or jury here. All we want to do is cooperate with the Jockey Club and let them decide what needs to be done."
- Mark Davies

Officials with leading betting exchange Betfair.com say the case is an example of how P2P services will improve the industry, contrary to what opponents argue.

After an unusual amount of punters laid Intox III, the company contacted racecourse stewards and warned them to keep an eye on the horse. The horse was subsequently found to be lame after finishing unplaced.

Mark Davies, communications director for Betfair, said people started asking questions immediately after the race.

"Everyone wanted to know who laid the horse," he said. "There were a lot of people that were coming forward and saying they did because they felt Intox III wasn't that good of a horse."

Pipe reported on his Web site prior to the race that he felt the horse had a good chance of winning and relayed the information to the horse's owner, Stef Stefanou.

After the race Stefanou responded to claims of skullduggery on the Betfair forum.

Stefanou wrote that he backed Intox III to win to a "very large stake," and that Pipe had told him he considered the horse to be "a certainty."

A 2-5 favorite in the Racing Post betting forecast, Intox was initially traded at 1.5 on Betfair (2-1 on) but drifted out to 2.5 (6-4), with £100 traded at 2.9 at one stage.

At the track, Intox opened at even, drifted to 11-10 and was then cut to 8-11 in response to off-course money, a move mirrored on Betfair in the last five minutes of trading in which the horse was backed down to 1.79 at the off.

Davies said other bookies, namely Coral, didn't drift the odds on Intox because they probably had money coming in off-course from the commercial bookmakers looking to hedge their bets.

Davies said it isn't unusual for Betfair to put racecourse stewards on alert when unusual betting patterns are noticed leading up to a race. Just because communication was made punters, or others in the industry, shouldn't assume that skullduggery was committed, he added.

"Horses have bad days," Davies explained. "We are not judge or jury here. All we want to do is cooperate with the Jockey Club and let them decide what needs to be done."

And what little facts are known about Thursday's race may indicate the Jockey Club inquiry will be much ado about nothing.

Stewards at Ludlow immediately conducted an inquiry of their own after the race. They heard from Intox III's jockey, Jamie Moore, and the track vet. Moore is Intox III's conditional jockey but was riding him after regular jockey Tony McCoy gave up the saddle for the race.

Moore said his instructions were to jump out, be handy and make his best way home. He added. however, that after an early slow jump the gelding was never traveling.

The stewards heard from the on-course vet that Intox III had sustained an injury to his left-fore tendon during the race. An examination by a Jockey Club vet also found the horse was injured.

Returning to hurdles after two poor efforts over fences, Intox III, which sometimes is a front-runner, could never get close to the leaders of the race.

After a slow jump at the fourth hurdle he quickly lost his place and trailed in a tailed-off ninth, beaten by a total of 44 lengths.

The stewards noted Moore's explanation as well of that of Pipe's representative, Bob Hodge, who had confirmed the instructions to the jockey, and referred the matter to Portman Square for further investigation into the betting patterns in the race.

A total of £655,000 was traded on the race both before the off and in-running, with £589,000 of that concentrated on Intox. Betfair spokesman Tony Calvin said such totals were not unusual.

Even though the injury is probably the most plausible explanation to Intox III's poor showing, racing officials said they are obligated to investigate the betting to ensure the sport hasn't been undermined.

"We had information from the Jockey Club Security Department before the race that the horse had been laid on the exchanges, and having seen the horse run poorly, we were obliged to inquire into his running and riding," said Stipendiary steward Simon Cowley. "In the current climate we have been advised to refer the matter on for further examination of the betting exchanges on the horse."

Davies said the inquiry shows how Betfair has added to the legitimacy of betting exchanges and racing.

"Four years ago this information would not have been given to the Jockey Club," Davies said. "And we still are the only organization that will hand over the information to them. People can bet with Ladbrokes and lay horses through other means and not have it traced or they can do it with us and have their fingerprints all over the place."

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