A British gambler was given a suspended jail sentence Monday for threatening to kill a top racehorse.
Andrew Rodgerson, 26, sent text messages and emails to his owners threatening to kill the thoroughbred, Conduit, if he ran in a valuable race at Ascot after he forgot to place a bet for a syndicate.
Had the St. Leger and Breeders' Cup winner been victorious, the syndicate would have expected 55,000 pounds in winnings from Rodgerson.
At Bolton Crown Court , he was sentenced to 34 weeks in jail, suspended for two years, and 240 hours of community service.
Rodgerson sent texts and emails to Peter Reynolds, the general manager for Ireland's Ballymacoll Stud Farm which owns and bred Conduit, the court heard.
Ten days before the race he texted the message: "Dear Peter, we would just like to warn you should Conduit run in the King George then the horse will be killed."
Five days later he sent an email reading: "Dear Peter, I don't believe you are taking the threat of death to Conduit very seriously.
"We want the horse removed from the King George this weekend. If you cooperate the horse will live.
"There are people living in and around Newmarket who are ready and willing. There will also be people around at Ascot on Saturday."
Rodgerson was arrested two days before the race. He admitted making the threats.
The travel agency worker pleaded guilty to threatening to commit damage at an earlier hearing.
Foaled in March 2005, Conduit is trained by Michael Stoute.
In 2008, jockey Frankie Dettori rode him to victory in England's St. Leger classic and Ryan Moore rode him to win the Breeders' Cup in the United States, becoming the first horse to win both races.
He repeated his Breeders' Cup victory last year, again with Moore at the helm.
Judge Angela Nield said Rodgerson had embarked on a "foolish escapade".
"If offences such as this are not dealt with seriously than the (horseracing) industry will be undermined and those who work in it risk their livelihood being damaged and the manner in which they operate being altered for good," she said.
Rodgerson's lawyer Joseph Hart said: "This was a clever series of bets and it required quite precise timing because the odds changed so rapidly."
He mistimed the Conduit bet during a busy day in the travel agency and realised that if Conduit won "he would owe this syndicate more than 50,000 pounds".
Already in financial difficulties due his gambling, Rodgerson was "utterly terrified".
"These were powerful men, he thought these were shadowy men. He thought perhaps they would be people who would hurt him."
He still owes the bulk of the debt to the syndicate.