Monday 20 November 2017

Desperate gambler's threat to kill horse over €61,000 bet

Nick Britten in London

A gambler threatened to kill a top racehorse owned by an Irish stud farm unless it was withdrawn from a high-profile race. Andrew Rodgerson made the threat after realising he had forgotten to place a bet on the horse which would have netted a syndicate £55,000 (€61,442).

Rodgerson (26) knew that victory for hot favourite Conduit in last July's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot would have sealed the accumulator bet -- except he had forgotten to place it because he was too busy at work.

Faced with having to make the payout himself, the desperate gambler sent a series of text messages and emails to Peter Reynolds, the general manager for the Ballymacoll Stud Farm, Co Meath, which owned Conduit. In them, he vowed the 2008 St Leger winner would be killed if it was allowed to run.

He said there were "people" at Newmarket, where he was being trained, and Ascot who were "ready and willing" to do the deed. Bolton Crown Court in north-west England heard yesterday that Rodgerson, who worked in a travel agency, was addicted to gambling.

He was involved in a scheme where people would ask him to place money on horses and obtain the best available odds. Rodgerson was required to place three or four bets per day with a usual wager being up to £400 (€446). He was supposed to have placed the accumulator bet spanning several races on behalf of a syndicate, with Conduit the final horse to run.

He watched in horror as all the other horses came in first. He knew that Conduit, trained by Michael Stoute, was favourite and that a victory would have meant a £55,000 payout.

Had the horse not won or raced, he would have owed the syndicate £9,000 (€10,054). Panic-stricken, 10 days before the race he sent a text message to Mr Reynolds, which read: "Dear Peter, we would just like to warn you should Conduit run in the King George then the horse will be killed." Duncan Wilcock, prosecuting, said Mr Reynolds was then sent an email by an unknown person stating he had overheard a conversation in a bar that Conduit was going to be killed if he raced.

Five days later he received another email, which read: "Dear Peter, I don't believe you are taking the threat of death to Conduit very seriously. We want the horse removed from the King George this weekend. If you co-operate the horse will live.

"There are people living in and around Newmarket who are ready and willing. There will also be people around at Ascot on Saturday."

Although the communications were anonymous, they were sent from Rodgerson's mobile phone and home computer and he was arrested at home in Balderstone, near Rochdale, Lancashire, two days before the King George. Conduit won the race and the court heard Rodgerson was still paying off the debt.

Rodgerson pleaded guilty to threatening to commit damage at an earlier hearing.

Joseph Hart, defending, said the case had horrified Rodgerson's deeply religious, anti-gambling parents. He said he forgot to place the bet as he was busy at work and, fearing for his safety, schemed up "this frankly, unsophisticated and desperately stupid crime".

Sentencing him to 34 weeks in jail, suspended for two years, Judge Angela Nield said he had embarked on a "foolish escapade".

She said: "If offences such as this are not dealt with seriously then the horseracing industry will be undermined and those who work in it risk their livelihood being damaged and the manner in which they operate being altered for good." (©Daily Telegraph, London).

Irish Independent

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