12/07/2007 12:00AM

Fallon trial ends as 'no case'

EmailLeading Irish jockey Kieren Fallon was a free man on Friday as his trial in London for race fixing collapsed. Fallon and five others who faced long prison terms were acquitted by the jury after the judge, John Forbes, told them that there was no case to answer at the conclusion of the two-month trial.

The judge gave his instructions to the jury after counsel for the defense had made its submission for "no case to answer" without calling a single witness.

The virtual dismissal of the case apparently hinged on the faulty testimony of Australian steward Ray Murrihy, a prosecution witness whose understanding of British racing was exposed as severely limited under cross-examination by the defense. Police witnesses who had submitted evidence to the court before the trial had begun were also revealed to have omitted from their reports expert evidence that would have supported the defendants.

And so Fallon was acquitted along with fellow riders Darren Williams and Fergal Lynch, Lynch's brother Shaun, professional gambler and businessman Miles Rodgers, and bartender Philip Sherkle. All had been accused of conspiring to defraud bettors at the British bookmakers Betfred, where players can place bets on horses to lose. At the center of the case were 27 races run in Britain between December 2002 and August 2004, but the defense ultimately proved incapable of proving any of the charges. Fallon rode in 17 of those races, but actually won five of them, providing the defense with further evidence that the charges against him were groundless.

Fallon had maintained his innocence from the very beginning of the affair. When the charges against him were first leveled, he was banned from racing in Britain, the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, and Japan, while Ireland, France, Germany, and Italy continued to allow him to practice his trade. His exoneration, however, has not come in time for him to ride the Aidan O'Brien-trained duo of Dylan Thomas and Excellent Art in Hong Kong on Sunday.

It is now only a matter of time until the stewards of the British Horseracing Board's disciplinary committee rescind their ruling against him. His as yet undecided return to the saddle in Britain, where he has not ridden since July 2006, promises to be a media event of the first order.