Jim Best handed six-month ban after guilty verdict

Jim Best: guilty of ordering jockey Paul John to stop two horses

PICTURE: Getty Images Best handed six-month ban after guilty verdict
By Jon Lees 3:00PM 12 DEC 2016

TRAINER Jim Best was on Monday banned for six months after being found guilty of ordering jockey Paul John to stop two horses.

A BHA disciplinary panel conducting a rehearing into the controversial case ruled it was "overwhelmingly likely" that conditional rider John gave stopping rides to Echo Brava and Missile Man in December last year on Best's instructions.

It found Best guilty of both charges relating to the running and riding of the two horses and of a third charge of bringing the sport into disrepute.

Announcing the decision of the panel, chairman Sir William Gage said: "We find that Mr John did intentionally ride both horses other than on their merits: that is, these were 'stopping' rides. We also find that is overwhelmingly likely that he rode in that way because those were Mr Best's instructions.

"That being so, the findings against Mr Best under Rule C45 in respect of both races necessarily follow because he did not give his jockey proper instructions. That leaves the issue of the alleged breach of Rule (A) 30.1 which alleges Mr Best is guilty of conduct prejudicial to horse racing.

Gage said the panel did not accept the rule was a duplicated or alternative charge and there was no question of double jeopardy.

"Rather we consider Rule (A) 30.1 is an additional and separate charge on the basis that not only is giving such instructions inherently prejudicial to the interests of racing but that it is particularly reprehensible if those instructions are given to a conditional jockey for whom the trainer has a general supervisory and advisory responsibility (and if the trainer then lies about what he has done and seeks to blame the jockey for having failed to carry out his instructions)."

Original verdict quashed

Best, who had denied the charges, chose not to attend the hearing at the BHA offices at High Holborn in London at which the verdict was announced.

The rehearing took place after the findings of the first hearing in April, which resulted in a guilty verdict and four year disqualification for Best, had to be quashed over a perception of bias, owing to the disclosure that panel chairman Matthew Lohn had carried out other paid work for the BHA, and the insufficiency of the reasons.

In the following submissions on penalty BHA lead counsel Louis Weston said Best's conduct was so serious that a disqualification would be appropriate.

Jonathan Laidlaw QC, for Best, said it would be "grossly and manifestly excessive" to suspend or disqualify the trainer. He argued under the BHA's own guide to penalties a fine starting at around £20,000 was appropriate, adding Best's financial situation was "perilous". The panel was provided with a doctor's note disclosing Best was suffering from "low mood" and "anxiety".

He said: "Given the unhappy history of the case, the publicity it has received and no doubt will continue to receive, he has suffered enough. On top of that to ban him really would be a penalty in no relation to his offending, which is restricted to behaviour over four days now almost a year ago."

Best's solicitor responds

In a press release, Stewart-Moore Solicitors, on behalf of Best, said: "The Matthew Lohn judgment has essentially been regurgitated by the latest panel. This is most unfortunate given that Mr Best objected to two of its members sitting, one because of his connection with Mr Lohn.

"The panel has found that Mr John is an unreliable witness and that the BHA misled in its refusal to accept that it had a made a deal with Paul John in exchange for his implicating Mr Best. Quite why a jockey who has come to tell the truth needs to be coaxed into doing so by offers from the BHA and then decides to mislead the panel is not a logic that we can follow. Given the seriousness of his allegations, Paul John's evidence should simply have been ignored in its entirety."

The panel has retired to consider a penalty.

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