Lawson faces 18-month suspension
by Michael Guerin
South Auckland harness racing driver Simon Lawson faces a near 18-month suspension from the sulky after admitting betting on other horses in two races he drove in.
But Lawson, who has also received a $8000 fine, has been cleared of any race fixing or not trying with his horses, after investigations by both the police and racing authorities.
Lawson admitted profiting from $205 worth of bets placed by friend and fellow harness racing licence holder Gareth Dixon, who not involved in the race, on winning horse Mr Natural in race 10 at Alexandra Park on May 25 last year.
Lawson, who is believed to have been responsible for half of the stake of the bet, drove rival My Royal Roxy, who finished fifth in the race.
Mr Dixon is alleged to have placed the bets on the race and was also charged by racing authorities but with a much lesser charge and no decision has been made public in his case.
Lawson and Dixon won around $1000 each out of a series of bets on Mr Natural.
Lawson also admitted having a $100 each way bet on pacer Madam Connoistre in an Alexandra Park race on July 20 even though he was driving race rival, Ziyad.
Madam Connoistre finished second and Ziyad finished last when driven by Lawson and has not raced again because of a lack of ability. Lawson made $150 from the place component of the bet.
Both cases were prosecuted by the Racing Integrity Unit in front of the Judicial Control Authority after police interviewed some of the drivers in the first race and found there was no race fixing involved.
The betting patterns on the two races confirmed no illegal activity.
The cases were separate matters from the on-going police investigation into alleged race fixing involving several South Island-based harness racing participants in the South Island which has resulted in legal charges still to be heard by the courts.
The JCA ruling says Lawson can not drive in races from January 15 this year (when he was stood down by the RIU) until the end of next racing season on July 31, 2020. He was also fined $8000 but can still train horses, which he would not have been able to do if disqualified.
With no suggestion of race fixing or foul play, the length of the suspension and the large fine can be seen as a very clear message to racing licence holders, that those who are not allowed to bet in races they can affect the outcome of, but still do, will face far stiffer penalties than in the past.
Lawson was not available for comment.