Champion Australian jockey Damien Oliver has been banned for a total of 10 months over his $A10,000 bet on a rival horse in a race in which he was riding.
Oliver laid the wager on a horse, “Miss Octopussy”, in a race at Moonee Valley two years ago. Miss Octopussy, the favourite, went on to win the race. Oliver rode the second favoutire, Europa Point, to sixth place.
Oliver revealed during a Racing Victoria hearing on Tuesday that his life had been in turmoil at the time. His marriage was in trouble, he was struggling with drink, and he face a number of psychological issues.
Stewards handed Oliver an eight-month disqualification on the betting charge, with a further two months suspension from riding in races. He was also suspended for a month for using a mobile phone inside the Moonee Valley jockeys’ room to place the bet. That penalty will be served concurrently.
Oliver, a two-time Melbourne Cup winner, will be able to resume riding in races on September 13 next year.
The stewards said they took into account, amongst other things, Oliver’s admissions of guilt, his forthright evidence and remorse, outstanding record in the racing industry for over 20 years, character references and confidential medical reports, as well as the stewards’ finding that the outcome of the relevant race was not affected by Oliver’s bet.
In a statement released after the hearing, Oliver said: “It was a spur-of-the-moment decision that I will regret for the rest of my life and beyond.
“There are no excuses for the fact that I breached the trust of many people in the industry and I broke a fundamental rule in racing.
“I want people to know that while I have admitted to this serious breach and can offer no excuses, I have never in my 24 years of racing, not tried to my hardest to win when I am on the back of a horse.”
Oliver told stewards the bet was a spur-of-the-moment action and he had never before bet on rival horses.
Oliver is also banned from entering racetracks, racing stables or training tracks during the first eight months of the ban, but will be allowed to ride trackwork for the final two months.
Jockeys in Australia are forbidden from betting on any horse races in the country.
Racing Victoria chairman Michael Duffy said: “It is my belief that the penalty delivered in today’s stewards’ inquiry was appropriate given the co-operation afforded by Mr Oliver and the matters put forward on his behalf in mitigation of penalty.
“The result of today’s stewards’ inquiry has sent a powerful message to the jockey profession that there is a zero tolerance of any breaches of the prohibition on betting.
“The matter involving Damien Oliver and Miss Octopussy is now closed. However, it should be noted that the Committee’s inquiries into other matters raised during the investigation are ongoing.”