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the Harry Findlay case

I've waited until now to comment since his appeal is currently being heard. For those outside UK racing, this is the case where the biggest punter in the UK, one who trades, nearly every race, every day, was penalised for laying his own horse twice on Betfair. Harry owns (or at least did, until the initial ruling was made) a string of horses with various trainers around the country, and most notably is involved in Denman, the champion jumper.

Nobody will disagree that laying your own horse for profit is a bad thing which needs to be heavily punished. However that was not the case here. Both times Findlay had already backed his horse heavily and was reducing his risk by laying some of his outlay back. In both cases, he still wanted the horse to win overall.

Mark Davies has commented about the case today - here.

There are two camps of thought here - 1. that all betting against your own horse is evil and must be struck out, and 2. that one should only be punished if the owner/punter will reap a net profit from opposing his horse.

Idea #1 sounds simple enough.... but why should it only apply to lay bets on an exchange? If you own one horse is a race and back another, then by default, you can profit if your horse loses. For every back bet, there has to be a lay bet. If you back one horse, by default you are laying the field. If you lay one horse, then by default you are backing the rest of field to beat it. It is not a difficult concept.

But the racing authorities seem to think that corruption can only occur through betting exchanges which is the biggest furphy of all time. Corruption in racing has occurred since the first time they ever ran for a prize. If an owner bet on all the other horses in a race, against his charge, via other bookmakers, in cash or online, and via Betfair, but only BACKED the other runners, would he be penalised? Unless it could be proven the horse was pulled up, then no, he wouldn't - because backing other horses is perfectly acceptable...

It's a stupid rule which only satisfies those who scream about the supposed illegality of exchanges, yet does nothing to prevent the same actions occurring elsewhere, albeit where the perpetrator has to cop higher margins.


Idea #2 - only penalise the owner if they reap a net profit by opposing their own horse. Possible, but tricky. Very difficult to be able to record all the figures if it involves an owner using a bookmaker and an exchange. It could be done, but I can't see bookies being too keen on sharing the info. So it would have to be exchange trading only.

As I hinted on a few posts back, there are people who are allowed to lay their own horses - bookmakers. Under the terms of their licences, if there is anything untoward in those races, the racing authorities can see for themselves what the bookie has done.

So why not look at introducing a special traders' licence for those major punters/owners who bet heavily as a business? Findlay has always been open about the activity on his account, took responsibility for errors made on his account by people who work for him. and never denied the fact that he owned the horses, even though they were all registered in his mother's name. Any additional income for racing will be welcomed and the policing part of it will still be done by Betfair. Such persons going for this type of licence would not have the same privileges as a bookmaker - able to set their own rules, handle other punters' money and advertise their services - so the fee shouldn't be too ambitious - after all, they want people to sign up to this, not hide their activities from them.

It's at least worthy of consideration because all the current rule has done is rob racing of one of its biggest ambassadors over, what is in the grand scheme of things, a rather trivial event.

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