Apprentice jockey given six-month ban after admitting to betting on horses

Finley Marsh: apprentice jockey can continue to work at Richard Hughes's Lambourn yard
Finley Marsh: apprentice jockey can continue to work at Richard Hughes's Lambourn yard

The apprentice jockey Finley Marsh was offered some supportive words by a disciplinary panel on Thursday after he admitted betting on horses over a 16-month period in contravention of the terms of his licence, which was evidently done to feed his addiction to casino-style gambling online.

The 22-year-old was given a six-month ban from racing but received dispensation to continue working at the Lambourn stable of Richard Hughes, his employer for the last six years, who gave a character reference and committed to supporting him.

"The rule which says jockeys must not bet on horseracing is an important and a critical one," said the panel chairman Tim Charlton, delivering the verdict. He said a one-year ban would have been appropriate, but reduced it to take account of the fact Marsh had essentially been living as if already banned for the past half-year.

The panel accepted the evidence of a clinical psychologist that Marsh's betting had been "mindless" and intended as a means of coping with the difficulties of life. "It wasn't in any shape or form calculated behaviour and that, to our thinking, seriously reduces the blameworthiness of your conduct," added Charlton.

"We wish you well for your continued work on dealing with your problem. We've been very impressed with the efforts you've made."

'A sad case of a young man who has grappled with an addiction'

Appearing tearful at times, Marsh told the panel how he had sought to put his addiction behind him after the BHA got in touch in 2019, the ruling body having been notified by Betway that Marsh had placed a racing bet with the bookmakers.

Investigations revealed he had also placed bets on the sport through Coral and Paddy Power Betfair, in each case using accounts in his own name, registered with other details including his date of birth, address and phone number.

There were 119 racing bets for total stakes of over £5,000, placed between March 2018 and July 2019, the most significant being £500 on Stradivarius to win the 2018 Goodwood Cup, in which John Gosden's runner prevailed by half a length at 4-5.

Marsh bet on horses that he was riding and others who were trained by Hughes, but also placed bets on races in Australia with which he had no connection. The net outcome was a £114 loss. The BHA accepted Marsh had not sought to influence the outcomes of races on which he bet and had placed no lay bets, but the jockey suggested his riding ability may have been undermined on one occasion that he backed his mount, when he finished second.

Marsh said he was grateful for help from the PJA and the Injured Jockeys Fund, which had led to him having 15 sessions with a clinical psychologist from Sporting Chance. He had not bet on horses since 2019 but had a one-day relapse into casino gambling in May, presented as a direct response to the stress of receiving a BHA letter indicating the charges he would face.

"I was really upset with myself that I did that," said Marsh, adding that he has since signed up to a five-year gambling ban through Gamstop. He said he had never been inside a betting shop.

With the help of an IJF almoner, he had managed to organise his finances, clear his debts and save enough to buy a car.

"This is a sad case of a young man who has grappled with an addiction," said the solicitor Rory Mac Neice, representing Marsh. He described how Marsh would lose money through online casinos and then sometimes seek to recover it by betting on horses, with any winnings being used for further casino-style gambling. Marsh never withdrew any winnings, Mac Neice said.

Richard Hughes: pledged to give full support to Finley Marsh
Richard Hughes: pledged to give full support to Finley MarshCredit: Sarah Farnsworth

"When this came about there was no one shocked more than me," Hughes told the panel. "He's been a very hard-working boy from the very start."

Referring to his own struggles with alcoholism, Hughes said: "I think he had an illness like the one I had. There's no malice in him at all. He appears to be doing everything in his power to be a better human being. I can't speak highly enough of his work ethic. I'll fully support him in any way I can.

"We have regular chats every week about his wellbeing. I'm pretty sure he is in a very stable condition at the moment. He has worked as a stable lad since losing his licence. He comes in before anyone else and is the last one to leave. He's going the extra mile. He likes keeping busy and asks for nothing in return."

Marsh has not ridden since November last year, having sought to avoid drug testing at Kempton two days after he had taken cocaine. A disciplinary panel ruled in March that his licence should be suspended for six months for that offence.

The BHA acknowledged some delay in bringing this case, accepting that the charge letter could have been sent at the end of 2020 rather than in the spring. "Resource issues at the BHA would have made it extremely difficult to charge it before then," said the body's representative, Andrew Howell.

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Published on 18 November 2021inNews

Last updated 16:35, 18 November 2021