Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Flockton Grey

The story of the Flockton Grey case appeared in the Racing Post in two parts in January 2002...

Great Racing Scams: Exceptional winner who set the alarm bells ringing.

Byline: David Ashforth

"Members of the jury, I am sure that you must have found in this case, as I have, that it is both curious and fascinating and you may have thought more than once, `Well, this would make a very good book, a very good detective story'." Judge Harry Bennett QC, York Crown Court, May 30, 1984.

Kevin Darley was spared suspicion by the ease of Flockton Grey's success. If the former champion apprentice, scratching along on 14 winners a year, had known he was riding a ringer, he would surely not have won by 20 lengths. It was March 29, 1982, a cold, wet Monday at Leicester, a few days into the Flat season. A race day made to be forgotten. But when Flockton Grey galloped away with the Knighton Auction Stakes, it marked the start of a case that would rumble on for almost 15 years, and leave one question still unanswered. Twenty lengths was an exceptional winning margin, particularly for a two-year-old trained by Stephen Wiles. The 34-year-old former jump jockey had held a licence for more than two years, yet this was his first success on the Flat. Wiles trained a poor band of racehorses at Langley Holmes Stables in Flockton, between Wakefield and Huddersfield. He was an unfashionable trainer, and Flockton Grey an unlikely star. As a foal, the Dragonara Palace-Misippus colt had been sold for 900gns, and then resold as a yearling, to Ken Richardson for 1,700gns. Yet there was plenty of money for the debutant at Leicester.

Trainer Pat Haslam put about £250 each-way on Flockton Grey, on Richardson's behalf, while Mick Easterby also backed the winner. Across Yorkshire, Flockton Grey was thought to have been backed to win an estimated £200,000, at an SP of 10-1, and the Jockey Club quickly launched an investigation. On March 31, George Edmondson, an investigating officer with Racecourse Security Services, arrived at Langley Holmes Stables. There was a grey two-year-old gelding at the yard and a blood test established with 97 per cent certainty that he was by Dragonara Palace out of Misippus, the breeding of Flockton Grey, but it was not the winner. Flockton Grey's passport described a horse with a conspicuous scar on its off-fore leg, below the knee. The grey in Wiles's yard had no such scar. Wiles told Edmondson that Flockton Grey was at Jubilee Farm, 70 miles away at Hutton Cranswick, between Driffield and Beverley, a property owned by Richardson. Edmondson drove to Jubilee Farm and spoke to Terry Wilson, the manager, but there was no sign of a grey gelding. Flockton Grey had vanished.

Good Hand and Ken Richardson…
If the winner was not a two-year-old named Flockton Grey, but an older horse, its teeth might have given him away, but no-one had examined the winner's teeth. Brian Abraham was the veterinary officer on duty at Leicester, with Pat Morrissey assisting him. Abraham checked the vaccination record in Flockton Grey's passport, but not the horse. Morrissey checked that some of the horse's markings matched those in its passport but he did not look at its teeth, nor check its off-fore leg for a scar... Flockton Grey was wearing bandages. But George Edmondson had a stroke of luck. Ken Bright, the racecourse's official photographer, supplied him with seven pictures. In one, the winner had his mouth open.

In young horses, teeth provide a remarkably accurate guide to a horse's age. John Hickman, a veterinary surgeon, and Douglas Witherington, the Jockey Club's chief veterinary officer, examined blown-up photographs. They were agreed that, in racing terms, the winner was undoubtedly a three-year-old. Thousands of naming forms and certificates were examined, in a search for a three-year-old grey with a scar on its off-fore leg. There were only three candidates. Dick `E' Bear and Wednesday Morning were quickly eliminated… That left Good Hand.

In 1979, Colin Tinkler jnr had bought Good Hand as a foal for 600gns. A few months after arriving at Tinkler's stable, Good Hand injured his leg on a gate. The injury left a prominent scar on the front of his off-fore leg below the knee. Tinkler sold Good Hand to his brother Nigel and, on July 22, 1981, the two-year-old made his debut in a selling race over five furlongs at Catterick. Backed from 5-1 to 2-1 favourite, Good Hand did well to finish third after missing the break. He was third again at Thirsk later that month, and fourth at Ripon in August.

Acting on Ken Richardson's behalf, his right-hand man Colin Mathison subsequently claimed Good Hand for £3,100, and sent him to Jubilee Farm. Richardson was a Yorkshireman with a self-made fortune founded on sacks and paper. His interest in horseracing was a gambling interest, and a highly successful one. Richardson claimed that, during the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was winning between £70,000 and £90,000 a year.

He used up to 20 people, including trainers, to place his bets and controlled a string of racehorses in Britain and a training operation in Belgium. However, it was difficult to keep track of Richardson's racing interests because he raced his horses in other people's names. They were racing in his wife Josephine's colours from 1967, when her first racehorse, Rockfire, was trained at Wetherby by Eddie Duffy. In 1970, Mrs Richardson had horses with Eric Collingwood at Malton and Geoff Toft at Beverley. Later, Richardson was associated with Pat Rohan, Mick Easterby, Jimmy Etherington, Ken Whitehead, Jock Skilling and Derek Garraton, all in the Malton area; and, at Newmarket, with Peter Robinson, Clive Brittain, Pat Haslam, Brian Lunness, Paul Kelleway and Mick Ryan.

Richardson made it clear that the purpose of racing horses was to land gambles. In 1973, Lunness had a two-year-old filly called Jubilee Girl. He told Richardson that Jubilee Girl might be good enough to win the Brocklesby Stakes at Doncaster, the most valuable early-season two-year-old race. Richardson preferred to run her in the seller. He had £10,000 on Jubilee Girl, causing her price to tumble from 4-1 to 13-8. She won by seven lengths, and later beat Alexben, the winner of the Brocklesby.

A day for naming…
At the beginning of December 1981, the two-year-old Good Hand and the unnamed yearling by Dragonara Palace out of Misippus, both greys, were at Jubilee Farm. According to Richardson, he arranged for Stephen Wiles to take Good Hand away with a view to selling him. A busy man, Richardson did not subsequently enquire about the horse and heard no more of Good Hand until after the Leicester race. In the same month, again according to Richardson, Wiles bought the Dragonara Palace-Misippus yearling. Peter Boddy, who often drove Richardson's horsebox, delivered the yearling to Wiles early in January 1982.

What could not be disputed, and was vital in pointing to the truth, was a visit paid to Wiles's yard on January 5, 1982 by Philip Dixon, a local veterinary surgeon. Dixon had been asked to complete a naming form for a horse brought to the yard by Boddy. Dixon was handed a foal certificate for a Dragonara Palace-Misippus gelding born on June 6, 1980. The vet did not take the certificate out of its plastic folder, nor examine the horse's teeth. He accepted the date of birth on the part of the certificate visible through the plastic and completed the naming form. He entered details of whorls on the horse's head and a scar on the front of the cannon bone on the off-fore leg. The grey was then loaded back into the horsebox, and driven away. Dixon was to testify: "I thought it was rather odd that the horse had been brought specifically for me to mark up. I found it fairly odd that it was going straight off again."

Richardson claimed to know nothing of the horse's subsequent movements. When he had asked Boddy where he had taken the horse, Boddy had replied that he had left it at Wiles's yard, but both Stephen and Elaine Wiles, and Stephen Pleasant, a stable lad, testified that no horse by the name of Good Hand, or like him, ever appeared at the stable after January 5.

Getting ready…
At the end of January 1982, Weatherbys issued a passport for Flockton Grey, bearing the markings of Good Hand but with a date of birth indicating that the horse was a two-year-old. According to Wiles, Mathison subsequently told him to make entries for Flockton Grey. He said that the "little grey" would be sent to Wiles and, a few weeks before the Leicester race, a little grey did arrive at his yard. Wiles testified: "I did believe it was the horse which I had seen for an hour in the January. I thought it was the horse then named Flockton Grey, and then we started to canter it and found it was absolutely useless, green, nowhere near ready to race, didn't know how to gallop straight, nowhere near fit for entering into a race."

The trainer looked at Flockton Grey's passport and was reminded of the scar on its off-fore leg. The horse he had been sent did not have a scar. When Wiles phoned Mathison, he was told that Flockton Grey would be with them in time for it to race…
Flockton Grey never arrived. Mathison nevertheless told Wiles to declare the horse for the Leicester race and to book Kevin Darley.

Early on the morning of Sunday, March 28, the day before the race, Boddy arrived and told Wiles he had come for the grey. Later that morning, a horsebox arrived at Geoff Toft's yard at Malton. According to Toft, Richardson had asked him to gallop a two-year-old for him. He had been told that it was a grey. Andrew Harrison, who rode the horse, confirmed Toft's verdict that it was weak and backward and nowhere near ready for racing. The horse stayed at Toft's until the day after the race - Tuesday, March 30 - when the same driver arrived to take it away. The same day, the grey who had been taken from Wiles on Sunday was returned by Boddy.

During the trial, it was put to Richardson that the grey delivered to Toft was the Dragonara Palace-Misippus two-year-old. Richardson denied it. "That grey was nothing to do with the Wileses," he said. "It was a colt belonging to an owner." When asked who the owner was, Richardson replied: "Mr Mel Brittain. I don't expect him to confirm this because he has asked me to keep his name out of it because he is trying to get a licence to train." Brittain had horses in training with Peter and Mick Easterby but had ambitions to obtain a licence himself. According to Richardson, Brittain had asked him to arrange for a two-year-old to be tried and Richardson had arranged for it to be tried at Toft's. He was unable to explain why Brittain could not have made the arrangement himself, nor why Brittain had not used his own horsebox. Brittain was not questioned by the police nor called to give evidence. Years later, he told me that Richardson was only a casual acquaintance and that he had not asked him to arrange a trial. It was not Brittain's two-year-old that had been sent to Toft.

Strange journeys…
On the day of the race, Monday, March 29, 1982, Boddy drove a horse to Leicester racecourse in Richardson's horsebox. According to Boddy, he had picked the horse up from Wiles's yard the previous day as a favour, their horsebox having broken down. That Sunday, he drove the horse to Newmarket, along with another two-year-old grey from Jubilee Farm, which he had to deliver to Pat Haslam's yard. Boddy arrived at Haslam's Pegasus Stables between 6.30pm and 7.30pm. John Hammond, now a leading trainer in France but then Haslam's assistant, was there when the horsebox was opened.

Boddy maintained that there were two horses in the box, one intended for Haslam, the other for Leicester, but Hammond testified that there was only one, which he led out himself. "I don't think I am wrong about this," he said. "My clear recollection is there was only one horse in this box when it arrived and that horse was delivered to us and then the box went away." Boddy claimed that he had then driven to the nearby Moat House Hotel and parked the horsebox there overnight. If Boddy was telling the truth, the winner of the Leicester race spent about 22 hours standing in the horsebox.

At the subsequent trial, Geoffrey Rivlin QC, for the prosecution, accused Boddy of "lying through his teeth". His evidence was "quite ridiculous and untrue ". Richardson was also at the Moat House Hotel that evening. He had dinner with Allan Smith, who trained for him in Belgium, and made a number of phone calls, including to Darley. Richardson advised Flockton Grey's rider that the best piece of ground at Leicester was next to the inside rail.

On Monday morning, Boddy left for Leicester, where Wiles had been told to meet the horsebox, with Flockton Grey's passport. Richardson agreed that Ken Haran, a close friend, often placed bets for him but denied that he had asked him to back Flockton Grey. In a statement to the police, Haran said that he had put substantial bets on for Richardson but, in the witness box, he retracted his statement. Richardson only accepted responsibility for win bets totalling £1,200 and place bets totalling £850, very modest sums by his standards. After the race, the winner was loaded into Boddy's horsebox. Wiles expected Flockton Grey to be delivered to his yard, but a grey horse did not arrive until the next day, and then it was the hopelessly backward Dragonara Palace-Misippus two-year-old... The plot was about to thicken.

GREAT RACING SCAMS: Case closed, but ringer's trainer still a mystery: Flockton Grey, part 2.

Byline: David Ashforth

Looking for a winner…
On Thursday, April 1, the day after investigating officer George Edmondson's first visit, Stephen Wiles and his father Fred went to see owner Ken Richardson and his right-hand man Colin Mathison. They demanded to know where Flockton Grey was but were given the briefest of audiences. Mathison would not allow them beyond his front door. Mathison admitted having staked £600 each-way on Flockton Grey and, at the trial, Geoffrey Rivlin QC remarked: "You had just won £7,000 and you should have been pleased with the Wileses, but you turned them away from your door." Mathison replied: "I told them I knew nothing and had just had a bet on the horse."

Neither the Jockey Club nor the police could find Good Hand. It was feared he was dead. Months passed until, on December 4, 1982, the Daily Star proclaimed: "We Trace The Ringer - Star solves riddle of Flockton Grey." It was the end of one riddle but the start of another. The newspaper had received an anonymous telephone call. They would find the horse they were looking for in a field just beyond Beggar's Bridge, near Glaisdale, on the North Yorkshire Moors. Reporters David Hudson and Frank Curran made their way along a narrow path by the River Esk to a small, secluded field. One of the two horses in the field was a grey with a scar on his off-fore leg. A blood test confirmed, with 97 per cent certainty, that the horse was Good Hand. But how had he got there?

The field was leased by Sylvia Jones, whose son, Greg, worked for Stan Mellor. Her husband, Peter, occasionally rode in point-to-points. Mrs Jones stated that on March 25, the Thursday before the race, she had gone to the sales at Malton, where she told several people that she was looking for a horse as a companion for a foal. Subsequently, she was away from home for a few days and, when she returned, on the evening of Wednesday, March 31, her daughter Romney told her that a man had phoned that afternoon and a horse had then arrived. Jones assumed that someone had heard she was looking for a horse and had responded to her appeal. She did not think it strange that she had not heard from the horse's owner since.

Jones subsequently contacted Derek Gardiner, the huntsman who looked after the hounds for the Goathland Hunt. She offered him £200 to shoot a horse. The offer made Gardiner suspicious, and he told Jones that he had run out of ammunition. Jones denied having contacted Gardiner, but when both gave evidence during an appeal hearing in 1986, Lord Justice Lane made it clear that he believed Gardiner but not Jones, whose evidence the judge described as "incredible and untrue". The police found Jones an unhelpful witness and, when Richardson's trial approached, in 1984, she disappeared.

The police were looking for a connection between Jones and Richardson. They couldn't find one. Jones told them that she didn't know Richardson, although she might have bumped into him, unwittingly, at the races… But there was a link. On one occasion when the police visited Jones, Peter Concannon was there. Concannon, once Pat Rohan's travelling head lad and Geoff Toft's jockey, was assistant to Malton trainer Derek Garraton. Garraton was a close friend of Jones, and trained for Richardson. After Flockton Grey's victory, Garraton received a phone call. He was asked to suggest where a horse might be kept. He suggested Sylvia Jones.

The courts consider…
In May 1984, Ken Richardson, Colin Mathison and Peter Boddy appeared at York Crown Court charged with having conspired to substitute Good Hand for Flockton Grey, with the intention of defrauding bookmakers. Richardson was represented by George Carman QC, already a highly prized barrister. The case for the prosecution, presented by Geoffrey Rivlin QC, depended heavily on the evidence of Stephen and Elaine Wiles. Carman sought to persuade the jury that, as "self-confessed liars", their evidence could not be trusted.

Stephen had admitted that much of the first written statement he made to George Edmondson on March 31, 1982 was untrue, and he and his wife admitted that they had done nothing to disabuse staff and neighbours of the belief that the grey two-year-old in their yard was the winner of the Leicester race. They said they had lied partly through fear and panic, and partly because of the knowledge that they had broken Jockey Club rules, which stipulated that a horse had to be in a trainer's yard for 14 days before it raced. Corroboration of the Wiles's evidence was in short supply, which lent additional significance to Philip Dixon's testimony concerning his visit to their yard on January 5, 1982. The defence accepted that the winner was a ringer but insisted that Richardson had had nothing to do with the deception. The Wileses were the guilty parties.

The jury disagreed. By a 10-2 majority, they found all three defendants guilty. Richardson was given a nine-month suspended and fined £20,000, with costs estimated at £25,000. Mathison was fined £3,000 while Boddy escaped with a conditional discharge. Richardson protested his innocence. In 1986 the Court of Appeal rejected his appeal and later that year the Jockey Club warned him off for 25 years, but he did not give up. In 1991, Richardson submitted a petition to the Home Secretary, Kenneth Baker, claiming that he was "now in a position to prove that the winning horse could not have been Good Hand".

In 1995, Richardson obtained permission to apply for a judicial review of the Home Secretary's continued refusal to refer the case back to the Court of Appeal. Finally, the Home Secretary, Michael Howard relented. In June 1995 he agreed to return the case to the Court of Appeal. The appeal was heard in December 1996, when the crucial evidence was presented by Dennis Bellamy, and Dr Alfred Linney, head of the medical graphics division at University College, London.

Bellamy had subjected photographs of Good Hand and of the winner to computer analysis. He concluded that they were different horses, largely because a whorl on the winner's forehead appeared to be situated on the opposite side of a mid-line to the whorl on Good Hand's forehead. Linney had reached the same conclusion because, using image analysis, he was unable to match up the head shapes of the horses in the photographs. Their evidence was challenged by the Crown's expert witness, Michael Harrow, an imagery analyst. He claimed to have established that the whorls were on the same side of a central line and questioned the reliability of Bellamy's and Linney's conclusions, which were based on the study of unsatisfactory photographs. Lord Justice Rose, sitting with Mr Justice Keene and Mr Justice Poole, accepted Harrow's critique and observed: "Scientific evidence has to be looked at in the context of all other evidence. Having regard to the 1984 trial, there was a very strong case indeed against the appellants, not only that they had participated in a conspiracy to defraud but also that the winner was Good Hand. "Any other conclusion means that, somewhere, untraced, is another three-year-old grey gelding with a scar on its right foreleg. Such a conclusion beggars belief. We do not think these convictions unsafe and the appeals are therefore dismissed."

Cumulatively, the grounds for believing that the winner was Good Hand were compelling: Beyond reasonable doubt, the horse presented to Philip Dixon on January 5, 1982 was Good Hand. On the defence's own admission, Peter Boddy had driven the horse from Jubilee Farm to Wiles's stable. Richardson acknowledged that the Dragonara Palace-Misippus two-year-old, whose foal certificate was brought by Boddy and handed to Dixon, did not have a scar on its leg and that Good Hand was the only grey Richardson had possessed which did have a scar. Exhaustive searches by Weatherbys found only three three-year-old greys with a potentially matching scar. Two were readily eliminated, the third was Good Hand. No other credible candidate has been suggested. Grey Desire, a talented sprinter owned by Mel Brittain and trained by Mick Easterby, has been mentioned, but Grey Desire was not yet two years old when Flockton Grey ran at Leicester.

The passport generated by the naming exercise carried out on January 5, 1982 showed a two-year-old gelding bearing the markings of the three-year-old Good Hand. It would have been bizarre for the conspirators to have presented this passport to racecourse officials, yet run a different three-year-old. Two days after the race, Good Hand was delivered to a field leased by Sylvia Jones. Less than eight months earlier, Good Hand was considered to have been worth £3,100. If the gelding was not the ringer, why would someone make an anonymous gift of him to a woman no-one acknowledged knowing?

Nigel and Colin Tinkler jnr, who trained Good Hand for more than 20 months, were adamant that the horse photographed in the winner's enclosure was Good Hand. Nigel Tinkler later said: "If the horse had been pink I would still have said it was Good Hand, by the horse's expression. I never had any doubt that the winner in the photograph was Good Hand." Richardson maintained that Stephen and Elaine Wiles were the guilty parties but, although they had been untruthful, the suggestion is not credible. Stephen Wiles lacked the resources to have organised the coup. There is no evidence that they were involved with other conspirators. If Elaine Wiles collected Good Hand from Jubilee Farm in mid-December, as Richardson alleged, where did the Wileses keep him? No-one saw a grey fitting Good Hand's description at their yard. If Good Hand was already in their possession, how is any sense to be made of Boddy's involvement in the naming exercise on January 5, 1982?

If the Wileses were responsible for obtaining a fraudulent passport, bearing Good Hand's markings, why did they employ a different horse as the ringer? Even if their horsebox had broken down, would they have arranged for Boddy to collect the ringer the day before the race, and take it to Leicester via Newmarket, requiring the horse to stand in the horsebox for 22 hours? There was no evidence to link the Wileses to a single bet on Flockton Grey. Richardson testified that he had never known Stephen Wiles to have more than £5 on a horse but claimed that Wiles had asked him to put £100 on Flockton Grey for him. Why did Stephen and Fred Wiles drive 70 miles to confront Richardson and Mathison, demanding to know where the winner was, if they already knew?

The last puzzle…
One question remains teasingly unanswered… Where was Good Hand between January 5, when Boddy drove him away from Wiles's yard, and March 29, when he reappeared at Leicester? Who trained the ringer?

Rumours circulated and suspicion fell on several trainers. One trainer had backed Flockton Grey with a credit bookmaker and was paid shortly before the Betting Office Licensees' Association (BOLA) asked its members to report bets they had taken on Flockton Grey. The bookmaker did not believe that the trainer would have backed an unraced two-year-old trained by Wiles unless he knew something about it. He set a deadline for the trainer to return the money and the trainer's secretary promptly delivered an envelope to the bookmaker's home, containing his winnings. The bookmaker did not report the bet. Pat Haslam was at Leicester that day, betting on Richardson's behalf, but Haslam was insistent that he had not trained the winner. Other trainers employed by Richardson were mentioned, with no real evidence to support the rumours. Perhaps Good Hand had been prepared abroad. Mathison had applied for a duplicate passport so that Good Hand could be exported, and Boddy had returned from overseas on Friday, March 26. But there is no evidence that Good Hand ever crossed the Channel. Maybe, when some of the few who know are old men, the answer will emerge.

Where are they now?...
Ken Richardson - Banned from racing, Richardson turned to football, buying control of Bridlington Town and then Doncaster Rovers. Colin Mathison and Peter Boddy were ultimately installed as the sole directors of Bridlington, while Ken Haran, Richardson's friend who denied in court backing Flockton Grey for Richardson, was made chairman at Doncaster. In 1995, the main stand at Doncaster was burnt down. In 1999, Sheffield Crown Court heard that Richardson had offered an ex-SAS man £10,000 to set fire to it... Richardson, 61, was given a four-year jail sentence.

Stephen and Elaine Wiles - In 1986, Stephen Wiles was banned from holding a trainer's licence for five years for having entered and run Flockton Grey, knowing that the horse had not been in his care for the 14 days preceding the race. Stephen later trained point-to-pointers while Elaine worked for trainer Steve Norton and, after his retirement, held a number of jobs within the racing industry.

Flockton Grey and Good Hand - The police kept Flockton Grey and Good Hand in custody until 1986, when Flockton Grey was sent to the Wetherby Sales, and bought by trainer Robin Bastiman for 680gns. Flockton Grey never raced and, in 1989, was sold to Sharon Dick, who worked at Bastiman's yard. Now 21, Flockton Grey is still in Dick's care. Good Hand was claimed by Richardson and subsequently stabled at the Aike Grange Stud, Jill Banks's establishment a few miles from Jubilee Farm.


  1. Would make a great drama film. Plot a bit complex for me though.

  2. Hi Felix,
    I always think that these ringer stories would make for a very good film... the only one I can think of that has been done was the Gay Future affair, my favourite I think would have to be the Francasal one at Bath races. Just been reading about the "King of the Ringers", a guy named Peter Christian Barrie aka Paddy Barrie... he was an excellent painter of horses, not so much in the style of Sir Alfred Munnings but more a case of he painted the actual horse itself with henna dyes i.e. turning a chestnut into a bay etc!
    Best Wishes


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