Harness racing corruption trial: driver denies paying bribes

It was a family affair at Sydney's harness racing corruption trial: the champion driver Greg Bennett, accused of bribing a steward; his dad, Jim, the trainer with 50 years in the game; and the driver's brother-in-law, a retired school teacher who crunched the statistics to show Bennett drove plenty of winners for other trainers.

All three gave evidence in Sydney District Court on Tuesday, when Jim Bennett denied he had ever given his horses a ''milkshake'' (sodium bicarbonate) or ''bute'' (phenylbutazone) or ever used tubing to deliver such illegal substances to their stomachs to boost their race performance. Jim Bennett also denied placing bets on horses so he and his son could divide the winnings in a three-way split with a corrupt steward, Matthew Bentley.

Greg Bennett has pleaded not guilty to six counts of giving or offering bribes to Bentley, who has turned Crown witness after striking a deal for indemnity from prosecution. The driver says Bentley is lying and that he never made any payments, which the steward alleges ranged from $200 to $1000 over six race meetings.

Guy Newton, for the Crown, took Greg Bennett through secret police tapes of his phone conversations with horse owners and trainers who did business with his father's stable in 2010 and 2011.

In one call, there is reference to a horse caught with ''higher bicarb''.That horse was linked not to the Bennett stable but to a female trainer from Perth.

''Oh-oh-oh,'' Bennett says on one of the tapes, which the jury has heard.

''Yeah,'' comes the reply.

''Oh shit!'' says Bennett.

Newton asked what this conveyed. ''Well, it was bad luck for her,'' the driver replied.

Greg Bennett said he never told his father or anyone else about the friendship he formed with Bentley and their many phone conversations, including on race days. He denied he had any deal with Bentley not to swab his horses.

Newton sought to demonstrate that Greg Bennett had an active business as a trainer in his father's stable, based at Kanahooka Lodge, south of Wollongong. The barrister quoted an intercepted call between Greg and Jim Bennett, in which the son gave his father instructions - ''you'd better tell Paul to tell Noel to tell Michael'' - about the horse My Bravado. ''Is that you telling your father what to do?'' Newton asked. ''Does it mean you were top of the tree?''

''No,'' Bennett jnr replied. ''I've never hid the fact that I go down and help my father,'' he said, but his dad was the boss.

His brother-in-law, Doug Robinson, a former assistant school principal, told the court he had used a computer to show Greg Bennett's winners for horses trained by his father and for other trainers in the period of the alleged offences. In some months, Bennett would drive zero to three winners for his father's stable but 17 or 18 winners for other stables.

The trial continues.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop