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Friday, 21 November 2014

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Cumbrian horse trainer devastated by four-year ban

A horse trainer banned for 14 years says he feels “hard done by” and insists he is not a bad person.

Elliott Cooper photo
Elliott Cooper

Related: Betting scam horse trainer given 14-year ban

Elliott Cooper, who lives at Brigham near Cockermouth, has spoken out after the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) imposed the hefty ban for a series of offences relating to three horses.

A disciplinary hearing by the BHA ruled that Mr Cooper was guilty of breaking rules relating to the conspiracy to commit a corrupt practice, passing inside information, laying his own horse (to ensure it didn’t win), and causing and encouraging former jockey Steven Gagan to commit breaches of the rules.

Mr Gagan was also banned for 14 years, while Whitehaven bookmaker Stuart Trevaskis was given an 11-and-a-half year ban.

Mr Cooper has now spoken out to criticise the length of time taken by the BHA to investigate the allegations – which date from 2011 and January 2012, when he was working out of Cumberland Lodge Racing, at Lillyhall.

“The 14-year ban is devastating for me,” he told the News & Star. “I feel I have been very hard done by, as I have been applying for work in racing as a stable lad and a trainer for the last two years. The investigation has lasted nearly three years [and] they wouldn’t proceed my application while the investigation was ongoing. I feel that should have been taken into account.

“I would like to appeal but it’s £800 just to launch one.”

Despite the setback, Mr Cooper has vowed that this will not be the end of him.

He explained: “I have shown resilience in the past after my career-ending fall from a horse so I’m sure I can adapt to another challenge outside racing.”

Mr Cooper, 30, accepts he did make mistakes but has accused the BHA of “making an example” of him and his two co-conspirators.

“I co-operated with the BHA fully and gave my side of the story,” he said. “I was found guilty of breaking rules relating to the conspiracy to commit a corrupt practice, passing inside information, laying my own horse, and causing and encouraging Gagan to commit breaches of the rule of racing.

“I deny encouraging Steven Gagan: he rode the horses and he was in charge of every horse he rides.”

He added: “The plan was to give the horses runs down the handicap which happens every day.

“In my case all it was was three horses which were owned and paid for but the horses ran in [two other] trainers’ names. [This] is a breach of the rules for a trainer to do that but I was banned at the time so they couldn’t run in my name.

“It does seem the BHA tend to pick on small fish and leave the big boys alone. I feel they wanted to make an example of us.

“I feel there should be more ‘inside information’ courses – there was a brief one-hour course on this on my trainers’ seminar. Trainers and especially stable staff need to be better educated.”

Mr Cooper also highlighted alleged corruption across the industry, saying it was brought about when punters were able to bet on horses to lose a race – providing a greater incentive for jockeys to pull them up or fall off.

He re-iterated the fact that Cumbria police chose not to take any further action and insisted he has widespread support.

“All my friends in the racing industry are gutted for me; I’m not a bad person and I treat everyone with respect but the BHA have tried to make me out [to be] a bad character,” he said.

Mr Cooper’s ban only applies to Great Britain so he could train overseas but says he is settled in Cumbria.

“The problem is there is nothing much to do with horses in our area. I’m only banned from the horseracing industry; I have horses of my own at home.

“I’m just trying to keep myself busy now and hoping that I can adapt to a new role in the Cumbria area. I was at a whippet show on Sunday at Flimby where my bitch Sky won supreme champion and best of breed so I was delighted with that.”

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