Ring of deception

Last year, the Irish Greyhound Board was presented with a report into a scam to rig races, and into the initial, error-strewn inquiry that had found nothing wrong. On learning that the report was to be published in the ‘Irish Examiner’, the IGB accepted its findings and promised to implement them. Investigative correspondent Conor Ryan details the report’s contents

0N JUN 16, 2009, Jim Martin, chief executive of the privately owned Dundalk track, sent an email to the head of regulation at the Irish Greyhound Board, seeking advice.

That morning, the judge for the previous night’s racing, Gerry Kerley, had come to him with suspicions.

His concern was a surprising run by a novice dog, Mays Hurryonboy. The two-year-old set an extraordinary pace to claim the €230 prize. Bookies had paid out.

Mr Martin sent his email to Pat Herbert, the head of regulation, who was based at the Irish Greyhound Board’s office in Limerick.

“The race was won by 13 lengths in 28.40 [seconds], a time 0.1 [seconds] outside the track record,” read the email.

“The dog had been beaten by 4 lengths in his 525 trial in 30.51 [seconds] on 21.05.09. Needless to say the dog was backed odds-on favourite.

“How should we deal with this improvement of just over 34 lengths in just over three weeks?”

Mr Martin told Mr Herbert he had not been on duty, but had received complaints from bookmakers and dog owners.

The dog had been removed from the track straight after the race. He was not inspected. A stewards’ inquiry was not called.

The man responsible for regulation in Dundalk on the night was the IGB’s control steward, Declan Haughey.

Mr Haughey’s brother, Gary, paraded Mays Hurryonboy and presented him to the weigh room.

The dog had been trained by Tyrone Downey, who was not licensed at the time and was a cousin of the Haugheys. He started training the dog in Dec 2008.

Mays Hurryonboy was owned by May Aylward from Waterford, and raised by her husband, Perry.

Race manager Michael Dempsey had said nothing untoward had been brought to his attention. However, he said he was amazed at the result.

Mr Kerley’s suspicions proved to be the impetus for initial action.

He subsequently explained why he went directly to the track’s chief executive. It was because neither the control steward or racing manager reacted to the result of an earlier race that night, which was also won by a dog that had also found considerable time.

The judge “believed something more serious was going on”.

It was suspected that the dog which won the fourth race in an incredible time was an imposter.

EARLY CALLS FOR A PROBE

The week after the race, Mr Martin exchanged emails and phonecalls with Pat Herbert at the IGB.

A meeting was convened on Jun 25, 2009. It was agreed to hold an investigation, which was conducted by Mr Herbert and two of his stipendiary stewards.

Several people were spoken to, including the control steward, the racing manager and Mr Aylward, the husband of the owner of Mays Hurryonboy.

The control steward said it never occurred to him to hold an inquiry, as this had not been practice.

Mr Herbert’s report was presented to the IGB board in Dec 2009.

However, by this stage, the headline indications from his inquiry were already public.

In response to requests for clarification from Mr Martin, the IGB had issued a press release on Nov 11, 2009. This suggested the matter would be closed.

“A full and thorough investigation was carried out by the IGB,” it said.

“It was recognised that a stewards inquiry… should have been held.

“All allegations of a ringer being introduced into this race are vehemently denied and no such information emerged at any stage of the investigation.”

It has subsequently emerged that the IGB failed to investigated the specific concerns raised by Mr Martin.

Mr Herbert and his stewards did not interview Mr Martin or Mr Kerley.

There was no effort to examine betting patterns or to look at the slow trial form of the winning dog.

IGB investigators did not look at the video of the race or examine the print from the photo finish. These could have been compared with the dog’s official markings.

However, the IGB’s insistence that the case was closed proved to be short-lived.

When the statement was issued, the management at Dundalk track did the investigators, work for them, and dug out the images from the race.

Through the Irish Coursing Club, the Dundalk management also pulled out the official markings for the dog.

Discrepancies were found between the photos and the identification records. This backed up the claim that a imposter dog had won.

A SECOND INQUIRY

These identification issues were not put to the control steward, Declan Haughey, when he was interviewed on Nov 25, 2009.

He was written to by the HR manager. Then he tendered his resignation.

The directors of the IGB, when they met in December, were told the matter would be handed to the control committee to investigate.

This committee twice forwarded details to the gardaí, but was told the result was not a police matter.

In Jun 2010, the control committee closed its inquiry. It did not reply to a request from the management at Dundalk to make a submission.

To quell internal misgivings, the IGB decided to ask Frank Melville, the former chief executive of the National Greyhound Racing Club in Britain, to investigate.

In mid-2010, he had been engaged to probe a separate controversy in Cork.

Mr Melville was given his terms of reference. However, his work was troubled from the outset: He had not been told about the allegations of a ringer.

Instead, he initially believed it the case concerned a dog making an unusual improvement.

Mr Melville did not interview everybody involved. When he finished his investigation, Mr Melville strongly recommended the establishment of a new investigation.

Mr Melville’s report was delivered to the IGB in Aug 2010.

However, because of problems with his original line of inquiry, Mr Melville’s work was not signed off on until Dec 2011.

It was then decided to send a three-person panel to reopen the case.

A THIRD INQUIRY

This team attempted to speak to everybody involved but could not get access to the control steward, Mr Haughey, or his brother, Gary, who is a solicitor in Newry.

Mr Haughey had resigned from the IGB when the images were put to him. He was not spoken to by the team.

Mr Aylward said the dog had been found to be lame after the race and was held on to by Mr Downey. He did not respond to treatment and was put down three weeks later. This contradicted the account Mr Aylward offered three years earlier, when he said the dog was sold to an English buyer.

Despite not having the same level of access as the original inquiry, the three-person panel pieced together a narrative.

It also trawled back over previous races, from May 2008 to Jun 2009. This established a meticulous pattern of behaviour to manipulate the race management system and dictate the standard of dogs pitted to compete.

The panel’s work suggested there had been a number of similar cases. However, this evaded detection, in part because the original inquiry had not looked for the evidence.

THE OUTCOME

The draft report of this panel was discussed by the board late last year.

It found that:

*Mays Hurryonboy did not run on the night of June 15, 2009, and never again ran at an IGB licenced track.

*Another, unknown and top quality, dog took its place.

*The greyhounds selected to race each other had been chosen on the basis of trials held earlier that year.

*Mays Hurryonboy had not competed in the qualifiers.

*Instead, his trial form was copied and pasted from the results of other dogs. All of the details, bar the name and the weight of the animal, was identical to unwitting entrants in the trials.

The review of the previous year’s trial records found a number of other cases of fictitious form.

In some cases, the manufactured data led to significant time improvements during races and wins for dogs on their first outings.

These actions compromised the integrity of greyhound races and led to people winning money.

There were a plethora of contraventions to the newly implemented 2007 industry regulations. These had been were drawn up following the last great scandal to envelop the IGB.

However, these had not been picked up by the IGB.

This had been because, the report said: “The concerns raised in the email sent by the chief executive of Dundalk were not thoroughly investigated, key issues were overlooked... The initial investigation did not delve deep enough into the matter to establish the facts of what happened.”

Scam details

The scam uncovered in Dundalk worked by manipulating a grading scheme critical to understanding greyhound racing.

The race management system (RMS) is a computer database that stores the results of dogs and allows race managers to seed them into tightly defined grades. It is a central database for all Irish greyhound tracks.

The result is the same as any other sport handicapping sport system. And, like any handicap database in a golf club, it is reliant on accurate and honest information being inputted.

The RMS is designed to ensure the fastest greyhounds line out against each other and slower dogs appear in lower-ranked races.

Without this system of filtering greyhounds by trial results the sport would not be competitive and punters would not place bets.

The scam involving a dog called Mays Hurryonboy in Dundalk worked because the RMS at the track was compromised.

Dogs were entered into races on the basis of fictitious form, copied and pasted from innocent dogs that actually competed in trials.

This meant the imposter dogs appeared in lower graded races. It was further manipulated by the running of a ringer dog, in place of the entered animal, who was clearly one of the fastest greyhounds to ever race in Dundalk.

Greyhound racing’s 11 grades in standard races are separated by small time differences. Top dogs will have to run 525 yards in under 28.69 seconds and the slowest will have clocked times above 30.5 seconds. A racing greyhound will cover one length in about 0.7 seconds.

In the case of Mays Hurryonboy he was seeded in the third slowest grade but clocked a time good enough to qualify for the elite category.

The form attributed to him, used by punters to weigh up a dog’s chances, was not its own.

Instead it was copied and pasted from the actual running record of other innocent dogs, only minor alterations were made.

The investigation could not establish how the computer containing the RMS was accessed, it was blamed on poor computer security and non-secret passwords.

‘These recommendations will ensure more robust industry integrity measures’

The Irish Greyhound Board

At a recent board meeting the board of Bord na gCon received a draft report into the running of the greyhound Mays Hurryonboy in Dundalk on Jun 15, 2009.

The board has decided to adopt this draft report and implement its recommendations on a national basis.

Whilst Bord na gCon issued a statement on Nov 11, 2009, on this matter, new evidence subsequently came to light, which showed the need for further investigation. Bord na gCon’s independent control committee referred the case to the Gardaí who referred it back to Bord na gCon.

Bord na gCon subsequently referred this matter to Frank Melville, former chief executive of the National Racing Club of the UK who, following a review, recommended a new investigation.

This new investigation revealed discrepancies in the marking of the greyhound in question as recorded by the photo finish and those as recorded in the official identify card or greyhound passport. Furthermore, among other things, it revealed how the race management system was manipulated to undermine industry regulations.

Mindful of recent global publications regarding sport and integrity challenges, the board and the executive are confident the implantation of these recommendations, some of which are already in place, will ensure more robust industry integrity measures.

Dundalk Greyhound Track “The board of Dundalk stadium called for an independent inquiry into thematter in question in 2009.

“When such an investigation was established by the IGB we made ourselves available to those who were looking into the incident and have given them a full briefing.

“Having not received a draft or final copy of the report we are not in a position to comment further on the matter at this point.”

Michael Dempsey The former racing manager at Dundalk said he was devastated to have been named in the report. He said he felt angry and let down by the IGB, as he had given full cooperation to the inquiry.

He said his password, used to access the race management system, was stuck on a Post-It note on a board in a office accessed by other staff.

He said he had not been informed of other incidents, other than the Mays Hurryonboy win, until six months ago and said he had no hand, act, or part in any scam.

Declan HaugheyThe former control steward at Dundalk track could not be reached despite extensive efforts.

Gary Haughey (right)The man who presented the dog on the night did not respond to a request for comment.

Perry Aylward (right)The husband of May Aylward, who owned the dog, said he was neither the owner nor the trainer of the dog, so he would not be commenting. May Aylward did not comment either.


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