Article by: Jon Lees
Published in Racing Post on 6th December 2013
RACECOURSE owner and professional punter Stephen Arnold was banned for three months yesterday after admitting to laying his own horses on ten occasions due to what his solicitor described as a misunderstanding of the rules, writes Jon Lees.
Arnold, who has had 20 winners this year, had pleaded guilty in advance of the disciplinary panel hearing claiming there had been no corrupt intent He said he had laid each horse on Betfair in order to back them for substantial sums at the best price available with bookmakers.
Yesterday the disciplinary panel appeared to accept this explanation for committing the offences between June 2012 and March this year by issuing the minimum penalty for ten counts of breaching rule (E) 92.2. The disqualification begins today.
Arnold, who has recently transferred 21 horses to Ann Stokell from Violet Jordan, tweeted: "Huge tanks for all the support I have been shown in very difficult times. Disappointing to get a ban but at least I can lease the horses to stay in the yard with Ann Stokell and no staff will lose their jobs."
The charges stemmed from a BHA investigation into the Brown Pete affair at Wolverhampton in December 2012, when another three of Arnold's horses were withdrawn from a race won by Brown Pete amid claims of transport problems. Arnold afterwards admitted winning around £130,000.
The ten races at the centre of the BHA inquiry all took place on the all-weather. They featured nine of Arnold's horses and in all but one of the races Arnold was either a net backer on Betfair, or placed equal bets.
His solicitor Rory Mac Neice said: "He got a three-month ban and the panel made the specific point of telling him this was the minimum of the range that was recommended by the BHA penalty. The BHA made it clear there was no allegation of corruption, no allegation he was trying to profit from a horse losing and his explanation was he had misunderstood the rule against laying, which he had understood to mean the owner should not profit from a horse losing.
"By giving the minimum penalty it would suggest the panel accepted that explanation. The panel have made a clear distinction between corrupt laying and laying where the owner is ignorant of the rules or who has made an error in his interpretation of them and Stephen falls squarely into the latter category."
Earlier this week, Stokell's first runner for Arnold, Brown Pete, was prevented from running because the premises where they were kept were unlicensed.
BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey said: "We are still trying to get someone out to reassess the facility as soon as possible.
"Stephen Arnold would have to make an application to transfer the horses to different owners, which we would assess. Once the yard is licensed the horses would have to wait 14 days before they could run."