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BHA counsel told 'you need to put the case in clear terms'

Jim Best (right): instructed Paul John not to win on two horses
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The BHA lead counsel was told on Wednesday he was not presenting his case against Jim Best in clear terms as he was, in effect, advised to get to the heart of the allegations against the trainer that he ordered conditional jockey Paul John to stop two horses.

In an intervention at the end of the third day of the rehearing Sir William Gage, chairman of the disciplinary panel, told barrister Louis Weston, representing the BHA, after he had questioned Best for an hour: "You haven't put to the witness what is your case and why he is involved in this.

"You need to put the case in clear terms. There has been a lot of cross-examination and you have not got anywhere near that."

Weston countered that he was getting there and had established there was no event between the time John joined the Best stable and when he left for the trainer to lose confidence in the rider.

Gage added: "At the moment, I am not convinced you have put the case as clearly as it ought to be."

Weston has replaced Graeme McPherson QC following objections by Best's legal team to McPherson, who is also a licensed trainer, to present the case at the rehearing ordered after the verdict of the first inquiry was quashed over a perception of bias because panel chairman Matthew Lohn carried out paid work for the BHA.

Best denies charges he ordered John to stop Echo Brava and Missile Man in hurdle races at Plumpton and Towcester in December last year and of conduct prejudicial to horseracing.

As Best began his evidence the panel was told the trainer coughed a lot because of anxiety. At one point he was told by Jonathan Laidlaw QC not to shout.

"I'm sorry," he said. "It does upset me. I watch and watch it [the races]. This is my life. It's very upsetting."

He told Weston it was "a bad thing" at any time to tell a conditional to stop a horse.

'He couldn't settle in a yard'

Asked why John would have made up the allegations, Best said: "My feeling is he couldn't settle down in a yard. He was not going by the BHA rules by sticking with a trainer. He couldn't commit to us.

"He made allegations to try to cover the fact he couldn't be dedicated and settle in a yard. Paul John is a complete liar. It's a disgusting thing to do to anyone."

Best said John was weak on Echo Brava and had not driven or pushed the horse at the finish. "Rightly so, the stewards called us in," he said. "He wasn't in a physical condition to ride. If I'd known he'd had very little sleep he would not have been on Echo Brava."

The trainer said John had not ridden to instructions on Missile Man, making little attempt to make the running, but the horse was later found by a vet at the racecourse to be leg-weary and lame.

Despite also having issues with the conditional's lifestyle and attitude, Best said he never sacked John because he wanted to encourage him to work harder in yard where, if he knuckled down, he could be stable jockey in two years.

He said John told him he had left Mark Gillard, who previously held his licence, after an owner spat at him, and when asked about his time with Victor Dartnall replied, "Victor Dartnall is an ****hole."

He said he was "horrified" to learn that when there was a delay to John receiving his conditional licence the rider alleged PJA chief executive Paul Struthers told him the reason was because "you stop horses". This was denied by Struthers when the trainer called him, Best said.

In evidence given by phone, Dartnall said John was a competent rider but showed "no commitment to work in the yard", which he said was unusual. "I would expect a boy trying to get rides to try harder".

'Not a reliable person'

John would take days off without telling him in advance, he said. "I could never trust he was telling the truth,"he said. "He was not a reliable person at all."

Even though John said he was taking his mother for cancer treatment, Dartnall said the rider was "the sort of individual to use a reason like that as an excuse".

Dartnall's head girl Katy Essery said John would come into work tired and looking pale. He would ride out, eat no breakfast, take laxatives to lose weight and be unwell for the rest of the day.

She said he would go out drinking with people in the yard even though John has claimed he did not drink after having his spleen removed. She was asked if he was being truthful and replied: "No definitely not."

The case continues.

I phoned Paul Struthers and he said he would never say anything like that. He said he was lucky to even have a job after leaving so many yards
E.W. Terms