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Dan Skelton fined £6,000 after 'attempt to mislead' BHA in George Gently investigation

Disciplinary panel finds Dan Skelton attempted to 'cover up' evidence in an investigation into the private purchase of George Gently; the horse's owners brought a claim against Skelton for an alleged secret stake in the horse, amounting to over £40,000

Dan Skelton
Image: Trainer Dan Skelton is now 'looking forward to getting on with the job I love'

Leading trainer Dan Skelton attempted to mislead the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) twice during an investigation into the private purchase of horse George Gently, a disciplinary panel has ruled.

Skelton, who took what the BHA called an "irregular" step by prematurely revealing the outcome of the six-year case on X on Saturday, received a £6,000 fine for failing to reveal to the horse's prospective owners that he would financially benefit from the purchase of the horse in 2016 and having "misled or attempted to mislead the BHA in respect of an invoice in respect of the sale which recorded that financial benefit".

A complaint was made against Skelton in relation to the private sale of George Gently to a syndicate of owners in October 2016.

The owners alleged that Skelton owned a secret one-third share in the horse and had received a payment of £42,033 - equivalent to one-third of the purchase price of £130,000 minus a bloodstock agent's commission plus VAT - from David Futter.

Futter, who denied the allegations, runs the Yorton Stud and was registered as the joint-owner of George Gently. Skelton denied he was a part-owner of the horse and his legal team stated the payment was "in lieu of training fees incurred by Yorton-owned horses in Skelton's yard".

In 2019, the BHA closed its initial investigation into the case, a decision it now accepts was "flawed because it was based on an incorrect interpretation of the rules of racing".

The BHA reopened its investigation in 2021 and informed the owners in December that year that it intended to charge Skelton with two breaches of the trainers' code of conduct in respect to a licensed trainer's dealing with their owners.

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Skelton was re-interviewed and admitted that he had received the payment shown on the invoice dated November 2016, explaining that this had amounted to a reduction on the training fees and expenses actually incurred.

Considering Skelton's first breach, of the trainers' code of conduct, Sarah Crowther KC, the judicial panel chair, said: "It appears to me on the evidence that Mr Skelton's opinions about the horse's quality and value were honestly held and given in good faith.

"There is no evidence that the horse's subsequent injury was present at the time of sale.

"Mr Skelton was not acting as agent for the Syndicate. Therefore, it seems to me that, whilst a serious breach of the Code of Conduct, it does not fall at the highest end of the scale in the absence of evidence that Mr Skelton was seeking to abuse his position.

"The evidence in this case shows that Mr Skelton failed to have proper regard to whether his involvement was such that it fell within the Code of Conduct, but I consider that there is no evidence of deliberate disregard of the Code and that his breach arose essentially by reason of a misjudgement or lack of sufficient awareness of regulatory responsibilities on his part."

The disciplinary panel report also states that Skelton omitted to mention that the invoice was in fact an amendment to the original. The amendment had been made in March 2020 to remove reference to sale of George Gently.

In 2022, a civil case in the High Court was brought by the syndicate against Skelton and others, causing the BHA's investigation to pause. The case was settled confidentially out of court.

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In a statement on Monday, Sarah Crowther KC, the judicial panel chair, said: "I accept that this was done for the purpose of seeking to mislead the BHA that the monies he received were described at the time of the sale as deferred training fees rather than sale proceeds.

"He then in his second interview maintained the pretence that the amended invoice was in fact the genuine original invoice. As I have said, I accept the BHA's case that this would not have come to light but for the High Court Proceedings.

"It is an aggravating factor that the truth regarding the invoices was only revealed by stages and in each case only when Mr Skelton had little choice but to confess.

"The aggravating feature is undoubtedly a pattern of behaviour involving deliberate attempts to cover up his previous breach of the Code of Conduct. This case is therefore in some ways one in which the 'cover up' discloses more deliberate and serious behaviour than the original breach."

Skelton's statement on Saturday read: "I am relieved that the BHA proceedings against me have come to an end. This has been a very difficult six years and at times I've very much needed the support of those around me which was unreservedly given and for which I'm so thankful.

"I have been fined £6,000, and the BHA released this information to me on Thursday night. There is a date amendment to be made in the findings which is why it has not been released publicly. I simply didn't want to drag this out any longer and the prospect of a first full night sleep in 2,049 days is a happy thought.

"I made a couple of mistakes. The independent chair who scrutinised this case has made both reprimanding and mitigating comments about me and my actions that I accept. I felt it was best to bring this to a conclusion as swiftly as possible for all concerned so l have not challenged the points.

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"The BHA has rightly investigated this matter, however it has taken far too long and has had its many costs, both financial and personal. Now this matter is finally concluded, I look forward to getting on with the job I love, which thanks to the unanimous support of my owners, sponsors and staff has continued to thrive despite this hanging over me for so long."

The BHA responded on Saturday, writing: "We're disappointed that Mr Skelton has taken this irregular step, to reveal the outcome of a disciplinary panel ruling prior to the official signing off of the decision by the judicial panel chair.

"The BHA has a long-established process for the communication of judicial panel decisions. It is based on ensuring fairness for all parties while also providing the opportunity for proper scrutiny of written reasons for a decision by the media and racing public, including of the BHA."

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