Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
A Disciplinary Panel has issued horse trainer Jim Best with a six-month sanction for ordering jockey Paul John to stop two horses, finding it ‘overwhelmingly likely that he rode in that way because those were Mr Best’s instructions’. An initial four-year ban issued to Best was overturned on appeal, after his legal team were successful in arguing that Solicitor Matthew Lohn had undertaken previous paid work for the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) – the prosecutor in the case – so could not be considered to be impartial. A rehearing of the case took place from 21 to 25 November and it is understood that the BHA sought a longer ban.
Best has until 19 December to lodge an appeal, however his legal team will first need to determine the exact nature of the penalty. It currently remains unclear whether he has been disqualified for six months, or whether his licence has been suspended – which would allow him to visit racecourses.
John argued that Best had ordered him to stop the horses. Best argued that John had failed to ride the horses as he had instructed and ‘vehemently denied’ ordering John to stop the horses. The Disciplinary Panel said it could not rely on the evidence given by either, but instead looked ‘to see whose account of the race is supported by the evidence of the films’ (PDF above).
‘We are satisfied that, in a number of respects, Mr John can be shown not to have told the truth and/or to be unreliable’, read the judgment. ‘In our view, Mr Best was also unpersuasive at various times. A vivid example was when he claimed to see evidence of Mr John’s weakness and tiredness in the Plumpton ride. In our judgment, the films entirely contradict that contention.’
In sanctioning Best on 12 December, the Disciplinary Panel left no doubt that Best is considered to have instructed John to stop the horses. ‘Mr John was young and vulnerable and Mr Best took advantage of him’, reads the ruling. ‘Far from acknowledging what he had done, Mr Best persisted in denying his wrongdoing and pursued a strategy of characterising Mr John as a liar who, for his own base reasons, had decided to blame the trainer whilst attempting to conceal his shortcomings as a character and as a jockey. That strategy has failed and we have found that Mr John rode as he did because those were Mr Best’s instructions.’
The BHA has commissioned Ian Mill QC to review all cases on which Lohn sat as a panel member since October 2013. Lohn has been involved in 15 cases since then, four of which are specific integrity cases and seven of which the BHA state are ‘disciplinary’ cases. Over the last ten years, cases in which Lohn has been involved in involve 31 people, all of which have had the BHA’s case against them proven.
On 1 November, the BHA announced that it had come to an agreement with the parties involved in four of the seven disciplinary cases. In May, Irish trainer Paul Gilligan asked for a BHA decision to ban him for six months to be put on hold until after the Best case was heard, due to concerns about Lohn’s conflict of interest impacting his case. Had he accepted the ban, he would have returned to racing on 28 October. His case is being heard on 13/14 December.