Ladbrokes Coral insist trainers get no better odds than ordinary punters
Ladbrokes Coral have said it is not company trading policy to lay bets to licensed trainers at preferential odds, nor would the bookmaker "knowingly" shorten the price of a horse to manipulate the rule 4 deduction.
A BHA inquiry into trainer David Evans's betting activity heard on Monday that Ladbrokes had offered Evans odds of 4-1 when he put £6,000 – the largest bet placed on the account used – on his runner Black Dave in January 2015, when he was generally available at 7-2.
In the same call, Evans told a trader he was going to withdraw stablemate Tango Sky from the same Wolverhampton race, after which that horse was shortened to 3-1 (from 7-2) by the firm, which led to a rule 4 deduction taking 25p from every £1, rather than 20p, on all bets in the race before Tango Sky was officially announced a non-runner.
During evidence, Keith Page, regulatory development manager of Ladbrokes Coral, said offering better prices to a certain profile of customer was a regular occurrence, and he described Evans as "a highly valued customer".
He also suggested the reason Tango Sky's price was reduced could either have been "a very cynical price change in order to affect the subsequent rule 4, or our traders were alerted to something not being right about the market".
It was Ladbrokes who later notified the BHA of their concerns about the Evans bet, which led to the inquiry at which the trainer was fined a total of £3,140.
The bookmaker subsequently merged with Coral to form Ladbrokes Coral, whose PR director Simon Clare said on Tuesday: "This incident pre-dated the Ladbrokes Coral merger, so it's difficult to comment on the specifics.
"However, I can state that the current Ladbrokes Coral trading policy is very clear on this issue as we will only lay licensed trainers prices that are readily available to our other customers at that time. We'll also never knowingly shorten the price of a suspected non-runner to benefit from an improved rule 4 deduction.
"In fact, Ladbrokes Coral has recently been proactive in working with the BHA to achieve a process whereby non-runners are notified and removed from markets more quickly, so that the whole non-runner process is more efficient and transparent for both bookmakers and customers."
The BHA will assess the disciplinary panel's full written reasons before considering whether to comment on the issues raised in the case, but it confirmed that guidance is in place to discourage trainers from seeking bigger prices on horses from bookmakers.
It was contained within the integrity code of conduct introduced in 2007, which expected trainers to "ensure relationships with betting organisations, or any person representing a betting organisation, do not confer special privileges or concessions which may invite adverse inferences to be drawn".
Since a review in 2011 the guidance has become part of the criteria to be taking into account when assessing an applicant’s suitability for a training licence.
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