Melbourne Cup clouded by betting scandal
MELBOURNE - A betting scandal overshadowed the build-up to the Melbourne Cup after top jockey Damien Oliver, riding one of the favourites in Tuesday’s race, reportedly admitted putting money on a rival horse in 2010.
The two-time winner at Flemington, who will guide French-trained equal favourite Americain in the Aus$6million ($6.2 million) showpiece race, wagered Aus$10,000 and expected to be charged soon, Fairfax Media said.
Fairfax said sources close to the champion jockey confirmed he admitted last month to breaching the rules of racing by betting on rival horse Miss Octopussy, which won a race two years ago at Melbourne’s Moonee Valley.
Oliver, competing in the same race, finished sixth.
The claims threw a dark cloud over the Melbourne Cup, which is the highlight of the Australian racing calendar and boasts its best field for years.
Oliver’s horse Americain is one of the favourites to win the race over 3,200 metres (two miles), with French stayer Dunaden needing to set a weight record for an overseas horse if he is to land his second consecutive Cup win.
Newspaper reports alleged Oliver told his supporters he expected to be suspended for between nine and 12 months for his controversial bet in 2010, but that he may retire to avoid a public hearing or a penalty from Racing Victoria.
Jockeys are forbidden from betting on any horse, while betting on a horse in the same race is one of the “gravest breaches” of Australian racing laws.
Publicly, Oliver has refused to deny placing the bet and Fairfax said there are serious questions about why he has been allowed to continue riding, and why he has not been charged by stewards.
Racing Victoria chief executive Rob Hines said he would not comment on the ongoing affair other than to say he expected an investigation to be completed in the next few weeks.
But Hines did call on the Victorian state government to give racing stewards more power to stand down jockeys suspected of wrongdoing.
“Racing Victoria would welcome a wider stand-down power for the stewards or police that could be used when there is information to support the need to avert a serious risk to the integrity of racing,” Hines told reporters.
Victorian Racing Minister Denis Napthine said in a statement that Racing Victoria operated separately from his government and it would be inappropriate for him to comment.
Gerry Ryan, part-owner of Americain, said he had not questioned Oliver over the betting scandal story.
Ryan offered Oliver the Cup ride on his horse after sacking French jockey Gerald Mosse following his fourth placing in the lead-up Caulfield Cup race.
“Damien did call us and explain to both (fellow owner) Kevin Bamford and I that this was going to come up,” Ryan told the Seven Network.
“He also said that he is focused and won’t let us down (with Americain).”
Oliver stands to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars if he rides Americain to victory in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup, following his ride on Saturday’s Victoria Derby winner, Fiveandahalfstar, which earned him Aus$45,000.
Five overseas horses have won the Melbourne Cup, now in its 152nd year — Vintage Crop (1993), Media Puzzle (2002), Delta Blues (2006), Americain (2010) and Dunaden (2011).