Yesterday, the Supreme Court for Canada righted a grievous error made by a trial judge in upholding an appeals court decision to find trainer Derek Riesberry guilty of two counts of fraud and ordered a new trial to determine whether or not Riesberry is guilty of 'cheating at play'.
Mr. Riesberry was caught drugging one horse which raced and was caught with syringes in an attempt to drug another horse which resulted in the horse being scratched. The original trial judge found while acts which could constitute fraud did take place, since the betting public had no interest in the whether or not such acts did occur, a finding of fraud could not be found.
On appeal, the appeals court vacated those judgements and ordered a conviction on the two counts of fraud, finding the public clearly did have an interest in whether or not someone committed fraud with regards to the pre-race activity (i.e., the drugging of a horse) in question. In addition, the court ordered a new trial regarding whether or not Riseberry is guilty of cheating at play, with the main issue being whether horse racing is a game, or a game mixed with skill which would then qualify for a conviction for as this standard was not satisfied at the earlier trial.
This is a big win for racing fans and participants. Should the original decision have stood, it would have basically given trainers carte blanche to manipulate a race without any fear of being responsible for defrauding the public, losing an important weapon in protecting the sport from wrongdoing. One would also suspect at retrial, it will be determined that racing is indeed a game, a game of chance or one with a mixed chance and skill which will allow for the possible conviction on the cheating at play charge.
Racing misdeeds seldom end up in criminal trial but the threat of criminal prosecution must always be present to keep a check on any possible wrong-doing. Should the original ruling have stood, it could have resulted in open season on cheating. With the Supreme Court ruling, the threat has been restored and racing participants must always keep in mind they may be held accountable for any flagrant wrongdoing.
The little guy wins today.