A jump jockey who admitted placing more than £1,000 in cash bets on horse racing in William Hill’s shop in Newmarket in November 2019 has avoided being warned off by the British Horseracing Authority’s disciplinary committee, after the panel accepted that he had failed to appreciate the scope of the regulator’s strict ban on betting by licensed jockeys.
Maxime Tissier, who has had 22 winners from 140 rides since moving to Britain from France during the 2017-18 season, staked £1,205 with a net loss of £521 between 1 November and 23 November 2019, on 15 racing bets which were the subject of Thursday’s hearing. BHA investigators were unable to obtain detailed records of any betting before 1 November 2019, but Tissier was seen as a “regular customer” by staff in the betting shop, and Charlotte Davison, who presented the BHA’s case, told Thursday’s hearing that a series of debit card deposits at the shop “would tend to support that view”.
Tissier placed bets on racing in both Britain and France until a member of staff in the betting shop recognised him from a photograph in the Racing Post on 21 November 2019. William Hill then reported to the BHA that “a person suspected to be Tissier” had been placing bets in one of their shops, and when he returned to the same shop two days later, he was told that Hills “were unable to accept any further bets from him as they were now aware that he was a jockey.”
Tissier subsequently told a BHA betting investigator in an interview in August 2019 that he did not think he was in breach of its rules as he was betting on races with which he had no direct connection.
“I understand that I couldn’t bet on myself or in a race where I was riding or a horse at the stable [of trainer Lucy Wadham] where I was working in the morning,” he reportedly told the investigator, “so I thought I could do these bets”.
The BHA’s rules – which are explained in a training module which all would-be riders must complete before being issued with a licence – prohibit “lay or back bets on a horse in any race”. The ban on jockeys placing bets is seen as a vital part of the integrity rules, so much so that the “entry-point” penalty for a jockey found in breach is an 18-month ban from the sport, with a range from six months to 10 years if there are mitigating or aggravating factors.
Tissier voluntarily relinquished his rider’s licence on 27 November 2020, acknowledging the “inevitable consequence” of a ban from the saddle as a result of his breach of the rules, but even a six-month outright ban from racing would have also forced him to stop riding work at Wadham’s yard.
Wadham submitted a testimonial to Thursday’s hearing which Brian Barker, the panel’s chair, said had “particularly impressed” its three members, while Barker also agreed with Rory Mac Neice, who represented Tissier, that the rider had failed to understand the rules and that “there are no integrity issues in relation to this matter”. It was also noted that Tissier made no attempt to conceal his betting and had stopped doing so as soon as he realised that it was against the rules.
As a result, the panel decided that it “should not be a disqualification case” and instead prohibited Tissier from reapplying for a jockey’s licence “for nine months from 27 November 2020”.
The circumstances surrounding Tissier’s case do indeed point strongly towards a simple failure to fully understand the rules, though some might argue that is no real excuse. English is not Tissier’s first language, but the rule for riders is couched in plain terms: don’t bet on horse racing anywhere, in any way.
But he co-operated fully with the investigation, stopped betting as soon as he realised it was banned, did not place any bets with serious integrity concerns and is also clearly a much-valued member of Wadham’s team of work-riders.
Formal comment on the case from the regulator, though, must wait until the panel’s full written finding is published in due course. These are also likely reasons, though, why the BHA did not exercise its power to suspend Tissier’s licence in November 2019, despite there being clear evidence that he had breached a rule with an entry-point penalty of an 18-month disqualification.
And there may also be good reasons why, despite having debit card receipts, betting slips, CCTV evidence from the William Hill shop and an effective admission from Tissier himself, he was not even interviewed until nine months after the bets were placed.
But the glacial pace of the BHA’s justice system rarely fails to amaze, not least as we finally approach the day when Mahmood al-Zarooni’s eight-year ban for steroid doping, imposed in April 2013, finally expires.
You may recall that what was arguably the most spectacular, deliberate and brazen breach of the integrity rules that British racing has seen went through the entire process of charges, hearing, decision and then disqualification in less than a week. As the Americans like to say, go figure.
In the more immediate future, meanwhile, the chance that Newbury will be able to stage Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle meeting as planned is receding by the hour and plans are well-advanced to move the entire card to Sunday week if the course fails to pass an inspection at 8.30am on Friday.
ITV4 will broadcast the meeting’s main races, including the Game Spirit Chase and the Denman Chase, if the meeting is rescheduled. Nicky Henderson’s former Champion Chase winner Altior and Gold Cup contender Champ are among the major stars being aimed at the card ahead of the Cheltenham Festival next month.