Star harness racer Greg Bennett pleads not guilty to bribery charges

Two allegedly corrupt racing stewards used prepaid mobile phones, registered under fictitious names, to discuss the fixing of races, a court has heard.

Police linked five non-work mobiles to steward Matthew Bentley and one to his colleague Paul O'Toole. They also intercepted calls between the star harness driver Greg Bennett, of Woonona, and other people in the racing industry.

Mr Bennett has pleaded not guilty to six counts of giving or offering a bribe to Mr Bentley. His trial, in the Sydney District Court, heard on Thursday that Mr Bentley used his succession of secret mobiles between January 1, 2010, and August 8, 2011 - the day Harness Racing NSW confronted Mr O'Toole and Mr Bentley about race-fixing and terminated their employment.

Mr Bentley's phones were registered under five different names - including Luke Walsh from Double Bay, John Butler from Warwick Farm and a John Smith - but none of them were real people, police analyst Eric Burgess told the court.

Mr Burgess also analysed calls on the mobile used by Mr O'Toole which was registered under the name Nathan Milne.

Mr Bennett's barrister, Charles Waterstreet, noted the coincidence that Mr O'Toole's mobile and one of Mr Bentley's phones were bought on the same day and had the same carrier and the same pre-paid service. ''Very curious,'' Mr Burgess agreed.

Had he asked Mr Bentley if he bought Mr O'Toole's mobile? Mr Burgess said he did not have contact with Mr Bentley.

The court has heard background expert evidence about race fixing, including the ''drenching'' of horses to give them more stamina.

This typically involves a practice known as ''milkshaking'', whereby they are fed a sodium bicarbonate solution, an alkalising agent that neutralises their lactic acid and so allows their muscle cells to work for longer.

The court has heard Mr Bentley had been keeping ''shabby company'' among racing industry figures while he was a steward, and that he had referred to trainers as ''desperate'' and ''scum''.

Steward Chris Paul gave evidence about a race meeting at Penrith on April 28, 2011.

He was acting as chief steward and Mr Bentley was one of another two on his panel of stewards.

Mr Paul told Guy Newton, for the Crown, it was not unusual to delegate decisions about the pre-race or post-race swabbing of horses to test for any doping, but he could not recall whether he had given this job to Mr Bentley on the day.

Mr Waterstreet, when discussing Mr Bentley's ''plethora'' of mobile phones, read out a number that did not appear on the prosecution's list of phones with fictitious owners.

He asked Mr Burgess, the police analyst, if it was familiar.

''That phone number rings a bell,'' Mr Burgess said.

''Indeed,'' Mr Waterstreet said.

The trial continues.


Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide