Andrew Heffernan: rode 96 winners in the UK before moving to AustraliaPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Heffernan one of nine guilty in corruption case
JOCKEY Andrew Heffernan and three professional footballers are among nine people to have been found guilty of a raft of charges following the latest corruption inquiry to cast a shadow over British racing.
The disciplinary panel meets on Friday afternoon to decide on penalties, and for Heffernan, who rode 96 winners in the UK before moving to Australia in 2011, a lengthy ban looks likely to signal the end of his career at the age of 24.
The case again reinforces concerns that low-grade horses and paltry prize-money combine to make all-weather racing, particularly during the winter, fertile ground for those intent on betting-related offences and race-fixing.
The footballers involved are Ipswich Town striker Michael Chopra, who claimed he could not afford the £50,000 legal fees to defend himself at the inquiry, Doncaster Rovers midfielder James Coppinger, and his teammate at the Keepmoat Stadium when the offences were committed, former Manchester United trainee Mark Wilson, who has most recently been playing for Gainsborough Trinity in the Blue Square Bet North.
The charges followed a BHA investigation into nine races at Britain's four all-weather tracks between November 2010 and March 2011 in which Heffernan's beaten mounts were laid to lose on betting exchanges.
In the case of three of those rides, he was accused of "intentionally" failing to ensure the horses ran on their merits. Heffernan was also charged with passing information for reward, and offering to receive, or receiving, a bribe.
Heffernan was suspended from riding by Racing New South Wales last October when the organisation was alerted to the race-fixing investigation, and although he is no longer licensed by the BHA, any term of disqualification would be reciprocated by all major racing authorities worldwide.
The BHA maintain that high-profile inquiries of this type do not damage the image of racing, but demonstrate the sport's determination to stamp out corruption.