Six racing jockeys indicted in match fixing case

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Six racing jockeys indicted in match fixing case

Prosecutors said last Wednesday that six jockeys and three race brokers were indicted for deliberately manipulating the results of horse races.

The six jockeys are suspected of having received a total of 104.5 million won ($90,700) from the brokers between 2010 and 2011 to directly sabotage horses’ performance in 18 races. Among them, a 30-year-old jockey surnamed Hwang took the most bribes, receiving 52 million won in return for manipulating the horses’ speed in 11 races, prosecutors said.

Another jockey, surnamed Kang, 34, threw a race in Jeju on May 20, 2011. His racehorse, Fairy of Light, was a rising star who scored third in March and second in April of that year.

But Fairy betrayed all expectations by slowing down at the first corner of the track, around 10 seconds into the race. The 2-billion-won total bet evaporated and Fairy ended up placing seventh out of nine horses. A video recording of the race showed Fairy’s disturbed balance as he raised his head and stretched back his neck. It was later revealed that Kang had been pulling the reins too hard to hamper the horse. He was paid 12 million won for this.

Most of these crimes were planned to advantage “place” betting, whereby bettors wage that a particular horse will finish in the top rankings. There are usually at most three star performers in every race, so influencing even one horse like Fairy greatly boosts the probability that other horses might win. Jockeys are bribed with about 2 to 12 million won per race, and they manipulate results by pulling hard on the reins or causing the horse to bolt from its course.

The three brokers were also revealed to be the owners of private racetracks in Daejeon and Cheonan in South Chungcheong. These racetracks allow bettors to purchase unlimited amount of betting slips, contrary to the law that only permits a maximum of 100,000 won per race. The prosecution also said last Wednesday that 24 more people were indicted for aiding these illegal horse races by touting customers, leaking health information of horses in return for money and borrowing names of horse owners for cover.

A broker surnamed Lee not only tampered with the race, but also sold information to a bettor. He once received 100 million won for telling which jockey was bribed beforehand. Lee is a former gang member. The prosecution’s Violent Crime Investigation Department head, Lee Yong-il, said, “Once, there was a jockey who returned the money he got after the act, but the broker threatened him, leaving him no choice but to continue the crimes in fear.”

Some bettors lose tens of millions a day. The Korean Institute of Criminology estimates the annual size of illegal horse race market to be as much as 33 trillion won.

BY CHOI SUN-WOOK [lee.dongeun@joongang.co.kr]

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