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Race-fixing scandal in Australia

July 13, 2010
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ONE of Australia’s most prominent owners and punters Michael Achurch could be banned for life. Achurch, who shot to prominence as part-owner of star thoroughbreds Polar Success (winner of the Golden Slipper) and Savabeel (winner of the Cox Plate), is alleged to have paid a trainer-driver to get a pacer called Regal Hawk beaten last September.
 
New South Wales stewards allege Achurch, who is already serving a five-year disqualification, paid Adam Ruggari to tamper with Regal Hawk’s back hopple so it would come undone during the race.
 
Regal Hawk was a $1.50 favorite (for a $1 bet) and was retired from the race because of the equipment problem soon after the start.
 
Stewards have charged Achurch and Ruggari under rule 241, which states that "a person shall not in connection with any part of the harness racing industry do anything which is fraudulent or corrupt."
 
On the day of the race the board claims he then deposited $A5000 in to Ruggari's TAB account. 
 
Achurch has also been charged under rule 227 for "offering any money or other inducement improperly to anyone, engaged or participating in the harness racing industry." Ruggari was also charged under rule 228 for accepting the inducement and carrying out the actions.
 
Robert Xerri, who is alleged to be the middle man between the two, has been charged under rule 245 for encouraging participants to engage in improper practice.  All three have been directed to appear before Harness Racing NSW stewards on August 6.
 
"These charges are a culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of investigating by our team of stewards," said HRNSW boss Sam Nati.  "We now have very sophisticated systems for monitoring betting patterns and are working hard to ensure the integrity of the sport."--By Adam Hamilton
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