I learnt very early in my punting career that the second worst tipsters are the so-called expert racing writers and broadcasters. And the worst tipsters are jockeys.
The fact that Australian jockey Chris Munce seems to have been an exception won’t be of much comfort to him as he begins a 30 month prison sentence in Hong Kong for taking bribes in exchange for tips on horses he was riding.
It appears Munce had a 50% winning rate for the tips he gave a Hong Kong businessman (through an Indian middleman – who else?). When the tips won, Munce collected, but when they lost the punter picked up the tab. A fool proof arrangement.
Had he done that in Australia, as jockeys since time “immoral” have done, he might have incurred a fine or a short suspension from racing stewards.
While Australian Rules of Racing make it an offence for jockeys to tip, and to tip for money in particular, allegations are always handled by race stewards. The usual penalty is a fine, and even when a jockey is found guilty of being involved in a much wider sting, such as not allowing a horse he or she is riding to run on its merits only a suspension, or in the worst cases disqualification, is involved.
But I am not aware of any recent instances of a jockey being charged criminally for offences directly related to riding or betting – and that is unlikely to change. But not in Hong Kong. Not only is Munce guilty of greed, he is guilty of stupidity and he is paying a heavy price for both.
Racing in Hong Kong is big business, but it is the most regulated in the world. And it’s regulated by Hong Kong’s powerful anti-corruption authority as well as the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Munce was caught in a carefully planned exercise run by the Anti Corruption Commission, not Jockey Club stewards.
Jockeys from around the world spend part of their careers in Hong Kong because the conditions are lucrative. They are effectively managed by the Jockey Club and have a package that includes excellent accommodation, flash cars, domestic staff, and six and seven figure incomes in a low tax regime.
Munce rode with great success in Hong Kong. But by entering into a “tips for bets” arrangement he must have known that not only was he breaching the rules of racing, he was leaving himself open to criminal prosecution if caught.
And he was caught red handed – with $250,000 in cash stuffed in his pockets after meeting Hong Kong businessman Andy Lau in a local hotel.
The penalty seems tough but Hong Kong anti-corruption and racing authorities have always taken a tough line in trying to prevent trainers and jockeys bringing the influential local racing industry into disrepute.
When he is released Munce might consider setting up his own tipping service back home in Australia. If he can maintain the same strike rate, he will make a fortune – legally!