A FORMER hunt master is among a group of five to have been charged by horse racing officials with cheating.

Charles Gundry, the former master of Middleton Hunt, has been accused of entering a ringer in a point-to-point race last year.

Horse owner Robert Tierney and his son, Richard, from Malton, North Yorkshire, have also been charged, as have Roger Marley and his wife, Ruth, from Langtoft, between Malton and Driffield.

The charges were issued by the Horseracing Regulatory Authority (HRA) following a six-month investigation by its officers.

The inquiry centred on three point-to-point races that took place last year.

It is alleged that the horse, Max 'N Limbo, was entered in a race as another ride, Quintin, during the Staintondale Point-to-Point, near Scarborough, on April 17, last year.

The horse was prevented from running after stewards became suspicious of its identity.

It is also said that Green Admiral, which won a race at Witton Castle, near Bishop Auckland, on February 5, and then at Brocklesby Park, at Grimsby, six days later, was another horse called King's Crest.

A statement issued by the HRA said: "The matter came to the attention of the stewards at Staintondale Point-to-Point after they were alerted that Quintin, a hunter owned by Robert Tierney and due to be ridden by Charles Gundry at the meeting, may not, in fact, be that horse.

"Quintin was inspected by a veterinary surgeon at the course, could not be identified from its vaccination certificate and was, therefore, unable to run.

"The matter was referred back to the HRA by the stewards for further investigation.

"The horse was later identified as Max 'N Limbo.

"During the course of that investigation, anonymous information was received that there had been two previous substitutions involving some of the same individuals."

Robert and Richard Tierney face two charges in relation to King's Crest.

Mr Gundry, Robert Tierney and Roger and Ruth Marley have been charged for the alleged substitution of Quintin.

The four have also been accused of misleading HRA officers during an interview.

Robert Tierney faces a separate charge of using threatening behaviour towards a witness.

A point-to-point expert, who asked not to be named, said: "It is really quite bizarre that someone would run a ringer in a point-to-point.

"The biggest bet you can lay is £500 and you are not going to get a massive amount in prize money for coming first -only about £250.

"It would be really stupid to risk losing your licence."

Robert Tierney has previously denied the allegations.

Mr Marley last night declined to comment.

Mr Gundry, who was the master of Middleton Hunt, from Ryedale, North Yorkshire, in 2004, was unavailable for comment.

The HRA will conduct two inquiries into the alleged substitutions. No date has yet been set.

The five face disqualification from racing if they are found guilty.