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Death of Flockton Grey, the 20-length maiden winner who never was; Horse at centre of one of racing's greatest scandals dies at age of 29.

Byline: By David Ashforth

FLOCKTON GREY, the horse at the centre of one of the greatest racing scandals and mysteries of the 20th century, has died aged 29.

For the past 20 years, Flockton Grey had been looked after by Mary Dick and her daughter Sharon at their stables near Worksop.

Mary Dick said yesterday: "Flockton Grey died of a heart attack on Saturday. He was a gem, my favourite horse, and people often asked about him."

Flockton Grey's celebrity, or notoriety, stemmed from 'his' unlikely 20-length victory in a race for two-year-olds at Leicester on March 29, 1982.

Ridden by Kevin Darley, the debutant 'Flockton Grey' provided trainer Stephen Wiles with his first winner on the Flat after two years with a licence.

The winner, returned at an SP of 10-1, had been heavily backed, and the Jockey Club launched an investigation.

When George Edmondson, an investigating officer, arrived at Wiles's yard at Flockton, between Wakefield and Huddersfield, he was shown a grey two-year-old, but Wiles did not pretend it was the winning horse.

Flockton Grey's passport described a horse with a conspicuous scar on its off-fore leg. The grey in Wiles's yard had no such scar.

Wiles told Edmondson that he thought the Leicester winner was at a farm owned by Ken Richardson, a wealthy businessman and gambler, who had bought Flockton Grey as a yearling. The winner was not at the farm. He had vanished.

Further investigation, including analysis of the photographs of the Leicester winner taken at the racecourse, led to the conclusion that this 'Flockton Grey' was, in fact, a three-year-old called Good Hand.

Good Hand's physical characteristics, including the distinctive leg scar, had been recorded on the passport of the two-year-old Flockton Grey. But the real Flockton Grey had been the unscarred horse investigators saw at Wiles's yard.

The previous year, Good Hand had been claimed out of a selling race at Ripon, on Richardson's behalf. Richardson claimed that he had sold Flockton Grey to Wiles and also arranged for Wiles to take Good Hand away, with a view to selling him.

Wiles was to state that the horse he knew as Flockton Grey (Good Hand), was not in his yard, but he had been instructed to declare it for the Leicester race, and to meet the horsebox at the course. Peter Boddy, the horsebox driver, who worked for Richardson, claimed that he subsequently dropped off the Leicester winner at Wiles's yard.

Wiles said that a horse did arrive back at his yard the following day, but that this horse was not the 'Flockton Grey' he himself had stood with in the winner's enclosure at Leicester. It was a two-year-old 'unnamed' grey, who he later showed to investigators: the real Flockton Grey.

In December 1982, a reporter for the Daily Star received an anonymous telephone call, saying that the Leicester winner was in a field near Glaisdale, on the North Yorkshire moors. The horse was identified as Good Hand.

The field was leased by Sylvia Jones, who claimed that a man had delivered the horse on March 31. Her explanation was that someone must have heard that she was looking for a horse as a companion for a foal. No-one had contacted her since. Jones had offered Derek Gardiner, a local huntsman, pounds 200 to shoot the horse but Gardiner refused.

Although the police failed to establish a link between Jones and Richardson, a link did exist through a friend of Jones who had trained for Richardson.

In 1984, Richardson, Boddy and Colin Mathison, a close associate, appeared at York Crown Court charged with having conspired to substitute Good Hand for Flockton Grey with the intention of defrauding bookmakers.

All three were found guilty.

Richardson received a ninemonth suspended sentence and a fine of pounds 20,000, plus costs estimated at pounds 25,000. Two years later, he lost his appeal and the Jockey Club warned him off for 25 years.

In 1991, Richardson submitted a petition calling for the case to be referred back to the Court of Appeal, on the ground that Richardson could now prove that the winning horse was not Good Hand.

Eventually, in 1995, the Home Secretary agreed to another hearing, which took place in 1996. After hearing conflicting expert evidence on the winner's identity, the appeal court judges dismissed the appeal.

Lord Justice Rose noted: "There was a very strong case indeed . . . not only that they had participated in a conspiracy to defraud, but also that the winner was Good Hand." Richardson was ordered to pay pounds 50,000 costs.

A tantalising question remains. Who trained the 'ringer'? It wasn't Wiles.

CAPTION(S):

'Flockton Grey' in the winner's enclosure with trainer Stephen Wiles after an unlikely 20-length win (top) at Leicester, sparking a police investigation that eventually saw Ken Richardson (left) convicted of conspiring to defraud bookmakers
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Nov 4, 2008
Words:809
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