The news that Anthony Knott is free to resume racing activities after the British Horseracing Authority agreed to set aside the remainder of his suspension has understandably made headlines in the racing press of late, but it is also an indicator of just how the BHA intend to play their hand when it comes to limiting any damage caused by their decision to employ solicitor Matthew Lohn – a regular member of the regulatory body’s disciplinary panel.
Knott, a colourful owner who has been involved in several memorable incidents in racing throughout the years, was found to have breached the BHA’s anti-corruption rules two years ago alongside Andrew Callow, who was alleged to have used inside information from Knott to profit from placing lay bets on one of Knott’s horses.
However, the disciplinary panel that day was one of several over a two year period chaired by Lohn who, it has subsequently been revealed, had also been paid to carry out work for the BHA unrelated to disciplinary matters in October 2013.
Following discussions with the BHA this week, both Knott and Callow are now free to resume their interests in racing after an agreement was reached which also sees any record of the offence expunged.
Along with the Knott case, the BHA announced that three of the remaining six cases that were decided with Lohn chairing the panel have now been closed with a further three ongoing. These include the case involving trainer Jim Best, who was found guilty of non-trier charges, and trainer Paul Gilligan. Their rehearings have been scheduled for November 21 and December 13 respectively.
It is clear that the BHA have decided to cut their losses with Knott and Callow and, given that they had served the lion’s share of their suspension, it seems the sensible thing to do in what has quickly become a damage limitation exercise. Although details of the other three cases have not been disclosed, it is understood that the regulatory body has taken a similar view.
Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the BHA will take such an understanding view towards either Best or Gilligan. The Best case was the main focal point in the media when the Lohn news broke and it will be a similar situation at the end of this month.
It remains to be seen if the newly-appointed panel reach the same verdict as the one chaired by Lohn but anything other than a similar decision will prove to be hugely embarrassing and damaging to an organisation whose ability to regulate the sport has come into question on a number of occasions.