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22 Jan 24 20:23
Date Joined: 09 Jul 09
| Topic/replies: 650 | Blogger: scoobytoo's blog
Two thousand days and counting - BHA's failure to act in George Gently syndicate case a damning indictment
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Peter Scargill
Deputy industry editor
George Gently schools at home when trained by Dan Skelton
Credit: Grossick Racing
British racing passed a most unwanted and unnecessary milestone at the weekend. Indeed, this milestone has become a millstone for the BHA in particular and grows heavier with each passing day.

Saturday marked 2,000 days since a complaint was lodged with the BHA by the owners of a horse named George Gently. The owners alleged that trainer Dan Skelton had secretly benefited from the sale of the horse to them as he held an undisclosed one-third share.

This was pertinent, the owners alleged, because Skelton had trained the horse when he was second on his debut at Enghien racecourse near Paris and his input was important in persuading them to part with £130,000 to buy him privately to remain in the yard, subject to a satisfactory pre-purchase veterinary examination. Skelton has firmly denied owning a one-third share of the horse.

The owners were unfortunate as, following the purchase of George Gently, he was found to have a tendon injury not long afterwards which required a spell off the course. When he did finally race, he showed little ability and was eventually sold for just £1,800.

Having enjoyed success with Skelton previously – most notably providing the trainer with his first Cheltenham Festival victory when Superb Story won the 2016 County Hurdle – the owners brushed off the experience as something that can happen with horses.

CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 18:  Harry Skelton on Superb Story win the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle as part of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 18, 2016 in Cheltenham, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Superb Story wins the 2016 County Hurdle - Dan Skelton's first Cheltenham Festival winner
Credit: Michael Steele
This changed in the summer of 2018 when Tony Holt, the head of the syndicate, spoke with David Futter, who was registered as the joint-owner of George Gently when he was sold.

Futter, who runs Yorton Farm Stud in Welshpool, offered the Holt syndicate the chance to select a horse from the farm ex gratia due to their experience with George Gently. Having been unimpressed by the horses offered to him, Holt asked if he could offset the equivalent value of the horses who had been offered against the price of another horse who caught his eye and pay the difference.

After further conversations about the horses, Holt alleged that in a phone call Futter expressed annoyance at having to do a deal with the syndicate as “Dan owned a third of the horse”, a comment Futter denied making. Relations quickly soured between the syndicate and Skelton upon this alleged discovery, and on July 30, 2018 a complaint was lodged by the owners with the BHA against the trainer relating to the sale of George Gently.

What has happened in the years since July 2018 is Kafkaesque for both the Holt syndicate and Skelton. They have both been failed by the BHA by its apparent dragging out of a matter that surely ought to have been resolved by now.

The owners’ complaint was initially dismissed by the BHA in 2019 before being reopened in 2021 when the reasons for the dismissal were successfully challenged by the syndicate. This culminated in a letter being sent by the regulator to the owners on December 21, 2021 in which it is stated: “The BHA intends to pursue a breach of the Code of Conduct under rules (C) 20.4 and (C) 22.1.2 of the rules of racing regarding matters arising from George Gently.”

The case has been frozen ever since. With the BHA case apparently stalled, the owners lodged civil proceedings against Skelton and others in the High Court in 2022. This was settled out of court last summer and the owners pleaded for the BHA to provide an update on its case last September. But there has been nothing. So the nightmare continues for all.

Following leaks to the press in 2021, the BHA has shared little information on its work with the Holt syndicate. Inquiries from the media have been met with the standard response that the regulator does not comment on ongoing investigations, or that an update will be given “in due course”. This has long passed being an acceptable response from racing’s governing body.

Holt and his fellow owners have been remarkably dogged since filing their complaint, refusing to let it lie without the opportunity for it to be heard. Between them they have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on legal fees, money that might have otherwise been diverted into British racing in a positive manner via ownership. Holt and his partners do still have horses in training, but their long search for answers seems such an unnecessary waste of time, money and effort.

This failure to reach a conclusion has no doubt weighed heavily on Skelton as well. For while he has continued to develop his successful stable and stud enterprises with his family, this issue must surely have taken a toll as it festered in the background unresolved.

Skelton spoke with me of the pressure the case was having on him at Ascot in January 2022, not long after the details of it were first reported in the media. He denied the allegations against him and he, and others associated with him, have expressed no desire to interact with me since.

It is shocking that the BHA – the organisation responsible for regulating and governing horseracing in Britain – has not brought this case to a head.

The BHA has to either follow through with its intentions as laid out on December 21, 2021 or dismiss the case and openly and honestly explain why it no longer considers the need to pursue a breach of the rules against Skelton, so releasing those tormented by its inertia. There can no longer be any excuse not to act.
Pause Switch to Standard View George Gently and the BHA
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Report onlooker January 22, 2024 8:59 PM GMT
The BHA remaking sure that they get the longest-running Unsettled case into the Guinness Book of Records.

Somebody give the BHA a nudge - and tell them that that Horse Racing Ireland 'Pulled Stumps' on their case against Denis Hogan and his horse Yuften, at Dundalk - after more than 3 and a half years of, similar, INERTIA.
Report swiftynifty January 22, 2024 9:19 PM GMT
truth is I doubt anyone's looked at any part of it in months, farcical.
Report Rico-Dangleflaps January 23, 2024 1:36 PM GMT
unless skeltons part ownership was 'official' how could it be proved he owned a 3rd share?
Report mitolo January 23, 2024 1:57 PM GMT
when the unfortunate nag was sold skelton received payment of exactly 1/3 of the price of the thing

much later, this was queried and he claimed it was training fees. remarkable coincidence
Report Rico-Dangleflaps January 23, 2024 2:09 PM GMT
is that fact officially documented?
Report elise January 23, 2024 2:20 PM GMT
it was documented in that skelton invoiced the supposed seller for what he said were training fees not his 1/3rd of the sale price after the syndicate bought it
Report elise January 23, 2024 2:21 PM GMT
so skelton raised the invoice if that makes sense, the seller was a guy called futter and he was the one that told the syndicate (allegedly) that skelton owned a 1/3rd but he later denied he'd said it .... is the story
Report Rico-Dangleflaps January 23, 2024 2:41 PM GMT
training fees are approx 8-10k a can he invoice for 40k?
Report elise January 23, 2024 2:42 PM GMT
i think that along side why the amounts were so close was the question the syndicate wanted the bha to investigate
Report mitolo January 23, 2024 3:08 PM GMT
the amount wasnt close. it was identical

there ws no complaint until futter said skelton had 1/3 of it. only then did they pursue skelton. so if he didnt say it, what started it?
Report elise January 23, 2024 3:16 PM GMT
futter was the reason it started, the amount was supposedly adjusted for tax / fees but they didn't print the invoice so no idea if he broke it down or just did a lump, he didn't dispute that an invoice existed at any time, just what it was for and he stuck to his story
Report DonegalPrince January 23, 2024 10:33 PM GMT
Rico, the guy who was in partnership with said he owned a share. That is disputed. But it is evidence he did. Whether that is accepted as being true......Well that is the issue. It shouldn't take ages to decide one way or the other. In fact they had a civil case which was "settled". One does not know which way but it must be 1/33 that the plaintiffs won.
Report mitolo January 23, 2024 11:57 PM GMT
shore is. if he didnt own a chunk of it what is he settling for? hed be suing them for slander
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