Secretariat’s 1973 Belmont Stakes win by 31 lengths was incredible, sure. But have you heard the one about Flockton Grey? A British racehorse, Grey, lapped the field, winning by a ludicrous 20 lengths at a 1982 race in Leicester.
You probably never heard of the unreal performance, because, well, it wasn’t real. Instead of inspiring admiration, the winning margin awoke suspicion.
Ken Richardson, Flockton Grey’s owner, had swapped out the two-year-old gelding for a veteran three-year-old horse prior to the race. Of course, nobody knew that definitively in the immediate aftermath, but the bookies were suspicious to halt payouts on the 10-1 winner.
The police were involved immediately, and the official investigation showed the winning horse’s teeth were far too developed to belong to a two-year old. Further evidence was collected, and Ken Richardson was charged with conspiracy to defraud.
Of course, Richardson and trainer Stephen Wiles both put 20,000 pounds on the faux Flockton Grey: further cause for suspicion (their “winning” bets were never paid out, and each was fined 20,000 pounds).
Richardson was convicted in June of 1984. In addition to the fine above, he was ordered to pay £25,000 in costs and was hit with a (suspended) nine-month prison sentence. He was banned from the sport for 25 years.
Interestingly, the jockey, Kevin Darley, remained above the fray. Why? Well, because if he was in on the scam, he was a moron. Had he known what was going on and that he was racing a superior/illegal horse, he’d have pulled back on the reins and not allowed the horse to win by such a ludicrous margin.
And if this absurd story wasn’t already uncanny enough, consider Richardson later became the chairman of Bridlington Town Football Club and conspired to burn down club facilities to reap an insurance windfall. He spent four years in jail.
Another tidbit: Flockton Grey (an unwitting accomplice in the scheme) was “in custody” for four years. Profoundly unjust. Also: How does one keep a horse in custody?