Racing Victoria Chairman, Michael Duffy, has issued the following statement into the investigation of Damien Oliver’s bet on Miss Octopussy at Moonee Valley on 1 October 2010;
Following the completion of today’s stewards’ inquiry into breaches of the Rules of Racing associated with a bet placed by jockey Damien Oliver at Moonee Valley in October 2010, Racing Victoria is now in a position to respond to the considerable media and public speculation surrounding this matter.
I believe that the chronology of events issued by the Investigative Committee makes it apparent why public commentary wasn’t possible throughout the course of the Committee’s investigative process.
The Investigative Committee comprised Rob Montgomery, Deputy Chairman of Stewards and James Hitchcock, Stipendiary Steward. Tony Burns, Barrister, was engaged to assist with independent legal advice. The Committee was initially appointed by the Board of Racing Victoria to investigate the race fixing media reports relating to the race won by Smoking Aces.
The Board extended the Committee’s brief to investigate the allegation against Damien Oliver shortly after receipt of an Information Report from the Racing Integrity Commissioner, Sal Perna, which contained the allegation by an unidentified source.
The key facts set out in the chronology are as follows –
1. On 16 October 2012, the Committee contacted Mr Oliver to make an appointment to conduct an interview. Initially, Mr Oliver was reluctant to be interviewed by the Investigative Committee having regard to his legal right to silence.
2. Notwithstanding that initial position, on 22 October 2012, Mr Oliver’s legal representatives contacted the Committee to commence a series of “without prejudice” discussions. As these discussions were held on a without prejudice basis, the Committee was obliged to maintain the confidentiality of those discussions and not to disclose their content.
3. Throughout the ensuing weeks of the without prejudice discussions between Mr Oliver’s legal representatives and the Committee, the investigation gathered evidence and gave careful consideration as to whether immediate action should or could be taken against Mr Oliver (including standing him down) prior to the laying of formal charges.
4. The Committee formed the view that its best prospects of securing a certain conviction was to obtain an admission of guilt from Mr Oliver. Accordingly, the option of standing Mr Oliver down prior to the laying of charges was not pursued by the Committee on the basis that this would have most likely jeopardised an admission being obtained which would be admissible in any Stewards Inquiry.
5. The Committee also took into account that an admission would most likely provide further evidence in relation to the actions of others.
6. The signed admission was provided to the Committee on the afternoon of Monday 12 November 2012 at which time the Committee was in a position to prepare a brief to support charges being laid against Mr Oliver – which proceeded on the following day.
With regard to the penalty handed down to Mr Oliver today, I note the following;
1. That the only similar and relevant precedent was that of jockey Blake Shinn in New South Wales. In that case Mr Shinn was disqualified for 6 months for betting on a rival horse in a race. In total, he was disqualified for a period of 15 months for many bets, with this aggregate penalty reduced on appeal to 12 months disqualification.
2. Today, in relation to Mr Oliver, Racing Victoria stewards imposed a penalty of 8 months disqualification plus a further 2 month suspension of his licence to ride in races for his $10,000 bet on a rival horse, plus a concurrent 1 month suspension of his licence to ride in races for use of his mobile telephone in the jockeys’ room.
It is my belief that the penalty delivered in today’s stewards’ inquiry was appropriate given the cooperation 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.