Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 23 January 2020

'Dishonest' trainer Jim Best banned from racing for four years

Jim Best has been banned from horseracing for four years
Jim Best has been banned from horseracing for four years

Trainer Jim Best was described as a "dishonest individual" by the disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority after being given a four-year ban from the sport following his part in the breaching of the rules regarding the running and riding of two horses in December last year.

Jockey Paul John was suspended for a period of 150 days when he cannot apply for a licence.

Best - who is "highly likely" to appeal, according to his legal team - and his former conditional rider John faced the disciplinary panel last month over the performances of Echo Brava at Plumpton on December 14 and Missile Man at Towcester on December 17.

Both horses finished unplaced with Best and John accused of failing to ensure the horses ran on their merits.

John was banned for 14 days by the Plumpton stewards for his ride on Echo Brava after being found guilty of failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures to ensure the best possible placing, but this was subsequently amended with John charged with intentionally doing so, prompting a further charge for Best.

Following an inquiry, Best was found guilty of failing in his "duty to secure the best possible placing" on two occasions as well as "conduct prejudicial to horseracing in Great Britain."

John was found guilty of two counts of failing to run a horse on its merits.

In its written reasons for the penalties, the disciplinary panel said it concluded Best "has forfeited the right to enjoy the privilege of being a licensed trainer for a significant period of time.

"The panel is mindful of the wider effects any period of disqualification will have on the owners who have horses with Best and the staff who rely upon Best for employment but that does not override the panel's concern to appropriately censure Best.

"He is a dishonest individual who corrupted a young man to ensure horses were not run on their merits."

The panel found John should be banned for 300 days but "having assessed John's co-operation and the provision of information enabling action to be taken against Best have deemed that John should be entitled to the full reduction of one half.

"John's penalty for the rides at Plumpton and Towcester will be a period of 150 days during which time he will be ineligible to apply for a licence. The panel has also considered when the penalty should commence.

"In the panel's view it would be apposite and fair in all the circumstances for the penalty to commence at the point John removed himself from Best's yard - in effect he imposed a suspension upon himself at this point.

"John will therefore be ineligible to apply for a licence for 150 days from December 21, 2015 to May 19, 2016 inclusive."

Adam Brickell, Director of Integrity, Legal and Risk for the BHA, said: "The case against Jim Best and Paul John concerned an issue that cannot be tolerated in British racing - the exploitation of a vulnerable young jockey by his employer in order to coerce him into breaking the rules of our sport to gain an unfair advantage.

"As Paul John has admitted, he should not have committed the offences that he has, and for which he has been penalised. The BHA is grateful to him for subsequently admitting his part in the case and for explaining the reasons for his actions, as this has helped to reveal the full extent of Jim Best's breach of the rules in these two cases.

"The disciplinary panel stated that Paul John deserves significant credit for his actions in distancing himself from Mr Best, seeking guidance from the Professional Jockeys Association and admitting the truth of the events, and the 50 per cent reduction they have applied to his penalty reflects this.

"It is the responsibility of any trainer to act as guide and mentor to young jockeys who are attached to their yard. No trainer can be allowed to abuse that relationship by pressurising jockeys to breach the rules and this is reflected in the sanctions incurred by Jim Best. In the words of the disciplinary panel, Jim Best's behaviour was reprehensible, and an abuse of the privilege of holding a licence to train racehorses.

"We would encourage any jockey who finds themselves in a similar situation to Paul John to seek assistance before they feel compelled to commit breaches of the Rules of Racing. Support is available from both the BHA and the PJA and any rider raising such issues would be met with full understanding and be offered every assistance to prevent them being drawn into actions which could jeopardise their future career.

"The recent BHA Integrity Review confirmed that education remains a central part of the BHA's long-term approach to integrity. As we further increase our focus on this aspect of our work, we will aim to provide additional help to those who find themselves in a similar position to Paul John."

On behalf of Best, Harry Stewart-Moore of Stewart-Moore Solicitors Ltd said: "Unfortunately we have been given very little time to review the decision (of the disciplinary panel) before it was made public, all we can say is that from a preliminary review it seems highly likely that Mr Best will appeal."

John, who is not currently licensed, was represented by Rory Mac Neice, who said: "The panel's decision on penalty reflects Mr John's approach to the disciplinary process and permits him to reapply for his licence on May 20.

"The panel's decision reflects the courageous step taken by Mr John in deciding to tell the truth to the disciplinary panel."

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