News

Race-fixing trio fined

By Myles Peterson

Three people, including high-profile trainer-driver Nathan Jack, have been fined a total of $40000 over a race-fixing incident at Cobram in 2015.

Jack, Mark Pitt and Lisa Bartley have been warned off all Victorian racetracks, had their harness racing licences suspended and no horse owned or trained by them is allowed to trial or race.

The trio was found guilty of conduct that corrupted a betting outcome over the running of a harness race.

In Wodonga Magistrates’ Court, Magistrate John Murphy found Shepparton’s Jack, Pitt and Bartley all guilty of various charges relating to the race.

Jack and Pitt were convicted and fined $20000 and $15000, respectively, while Bartley was fined $5000 with no conviction recorded.

The offences related to a harness race at Cobram on Monday, June 22, 2015, won by the horse Airbournemagic.

At one stage, Airbournemagic was in betting markets at odds of 35-1.

A suspicious betting plunge alerted authorities to the corrupt conduct, the court heard.

Odds on Airbournemagic dropped as low as $4.80 following the plunge.

The court heard Bartley received $2274.24 on a bet of $65, all the money she had left in her bank account, according to her barrister Rowan Lawrence.

More than $40000 was lost by various betting agencies, much of it unrecoverable.

Mr Murphy cited numerous acts conducted by the trio in the lead-up to Airbournemagic winning the race.

Bartley and Jack conspired to train the horse before the race, moving it from Bartley’s father’s stable, which had a lesser reputation in the industry, while hiding the new training program from Harness Racing Victoria.

Emails between the co-accused clearly demonstrated the deception, according to Mr Murphy.

‘‘Harness Racing Victoria was never notified as required by a stable return as to the movement of the horse,’’ the magistrate noted in his conviction statement.

‘‘For all intents and purposes, this was to mislead anyone involved in the industry, including punters, that the horse was still located at David Bartley’s stables and trained by him.’’

Text messages between Jack and Bartley and Pitt and Bartley further demonstrated a conspiracy to fix the race and place bets at long odds.

‘‘Keep (Airbournemagic) quiet and we all might get something I was happy with him today (sic),’’ Jack texted.

‘‘I’m not telling anyone,’’ Bartley replied.

‘‘Good girl, if anyone asks he is useless,’’ Jack continued.

Later, Pitt and Bartley discussed a plunge in the odds as a result of bets placed.

‘‘(Airbournemagic) is $15 now,’’ Pitt texted.

On the day of the race, Jack and Pitt conspired to allow Airbournemagic to win the race, according to documents released by the court.

Jack, an experienced and talented driver, drove a different horse, Tooram Lad, to the front of the race and allowed Pitt, who was driving Airbournemagic, to sit in his slipstream.

‘‘I am further satisfied that Jack, by his actions in the race itself, including continually looking over his shoulder, is guilty of all charges,’’ Mr Murphy said.

At a critical moment, Jack allowed Pitt and Airbournemagic to overtake, crossing the finish line first.

The plan almost came unstuck with a third driver coming up on the outside and taking the race to a photo finish.

Barristers representing Jack, Pitt and Bartley argued against jail sentences, stating all three lived for the racing industry and that anticipated lengthy suspensions imposed by Harness Racing Victoria following the findings of guilty would destroy their careers and livelihoods.

Mr Murphy said he would take a range of factors into account, including the relative youth of the two youngest offenders, Pitt and Bartley, but could not avoid imposing large fines and convictions for the more serious offences.