Racing Integrity Commissioner’s Review of Damien Oliver Investigation

Racing Victoria (RV) has welcomed today’s tabling in State Parliament of a report into its 2012 investigation of jockey Damien Oliver’s betting rule breach and thanked the independent Racing Integrity Commissioner, Sal Perna, for his work in preparing the report.

Mr Oliver was disqualified for eight months and suspended for a further two months on 20 November 2012 after admitting to placing a $10,000 win bet on rival horse Miss Octopussy at Moonee Valley on 1 October 2010.

RV wrote to the Commissioner on 14 November 2012 asking that he:

a) conduct a review of the powers of the RV Stewards to investigate the Rules of Racing;

b) make recommendations to clarify the Rules of Racing, particularly AR193, in relation to the Stewards’ power to stand down licensed persons before charges are laid; and

c) make recommendations in relation to any change that could be made to provide the Stewards with better access to information (including police information) in the course of investigations in order to better promote and protect the integrity of Victorian racing.

The Minister for Racing subsequently requested the Commissioner to generally review RV’s handling of the matter.

RV welcomes the Commissioner’s findings that:

a) The investigative panel took a professional and methodical approach to its investigation;

b) there was no interference by RV senior management or Board members in the investigation;

c) the investigation was not deliberately protracted; and

d) the penalty imposed on Damien Oliver was reasonable in the circumstances.

The report’s finding that the investigative panel was too conservative and cautious in deciding not to stand Damien Oliver down prior to him making admissions and being charged is a view not shared by RV.

RV Chief Executive, Bernard Saundry said, “We welcome the findings of the independent Racing Integrity Commissioner that the panel appointed by Racing Victoria to investigate Damien Oliver’s betting breach acted professionally and without interference from our Board or senior management.

“We also welcome the Commissioner’s finding that the penalty handed to Damien Oliver was reasonable giving consideration to precedence and the facts of the case.

“We note, but do not share the Commissioner’s view that Damien Oliver should have been stood down before the investigative panel laid any charges.

“We accept the investigative panel’s view that had they stood him down at that stage, then he would likely have been able to overturn that decision on appeal. Such a decision would have also carried a substantial risk of him escaping conviction.

“We fully support the Commissioner’s recommendations in respect to improving the lawful and effective sharing of information with Victoria Police; establishing a dedicated sports related crime or corruption investigation resource with Victoria Police; and extending the Commissioner’s investigative powers.

“We commend Premier Napthine for his commitment to implement these recommendations and note his statement requesting the urgent implementation of the Commissioner’s recommendation regarding further changes to the Rules of Racing pertaining to stand down powers.

“A process is already underway with the Australian Racing Board (ARB) to formulate a new national rule that provides clarity on stand down powers for all states and territories. The Commissioner’s recommendation will be carefully considered as part of that process.”

Big Opinion of spring prospect

Not only did Opinion secure his owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing a Royal Ascot win in the Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap (2400m), the progressive four-year-old also booked his ticket to Flemington and a shot at the 2013 Emirates Melbourne Cup.

His familiar light blue silks have twice been seen at the Spring Racing Carnival by Distinction, also trained by Sir Michael Stoute, who chased home ground-breaking mare Makybe Diva when finishing 6thin 2004 and then 19th 12 months later.

Highclere’s managing Director Harry Herbert has long been a huge fan of the Australian racing scene and wasted no time in nominating this year’s Melbourne Cup as the long-term target.

“I first started going to the Cup about 10 years ago and I don’t think I have missed a year since,” he said. “The race, the atmosphere and the people are all superb and hopefully we can end up out there with Opinion.

“Ryan Moore has given him the most fantastic ride to win here today and we could not be more thrilled with the more. He came on from his first run for the season at Newmarket and has appreciated the trip (2400 metres).

“We need to talk to Sir Michael about plans but the Ebor at York in August would be a possibility and we can then start thinking about travelling plans.”

Herbert’s syndicates have enjoyed enormous success in recent years with the Hardwicke Stakes and subsequent Group 1 winner Harbinger flying the flag for his prestigious syndicates.

One man to share in the Harbinger success story was Victoria Racing Club board member Peter Barnett and the man who has served on the VRC committee since 1999 is also involved in Opinion.

Herbert added: “We are thrilled to bits as having winners here at Royal Ascot is what we are all about.

“To be able to take a horse to Melbourne is the dream and we had such a fantastic experience when we took Distinction down there to chase home that fantastic mare that I have been wanting to have a runner down there ever since.

“They looked after the owners so wonderfully last time and it was a privilege to be involved in the race. I think Opinion ticks all of the boxes as to a Melbourne Cup horse and there could be more to come as he steps up in distance.”

Opinion, a four-year-old by Oasis Dream, has won four out of his 10 career starts and posted a two-length success to score on the final afternoon of Royal Ascot 2013.


No Diamond for Siren

Sea Siren could not make a winning European debut at Royal Ascot when finishing eighth in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1200m) overnight but the mare could yet be seen in action again after making a notable change of stables.

Prepared in Sydney throughout her career by John O’Shea, the daughter of Fastnet Rock was purchased by Coolmore prior to her second-placed finish in the Doomben 10,000 and will be transferred to their principal Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien in County Tipperary.

Sea Siren, who won last year’s Group 1 Sportingbet Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley, showed up well for Ryan Moore in behind the eventual winner Lethal Force for much of the 1200-metre Group 1 but weakened in the final 200.

O’Shea believed the long journey from Brisbane as well as busy campaign had taken its toll.

“She got a bit tired up the run-in,” he said. “It’s a learning experience as she is probably saying she has had enough – she had a hard run in Brisbane and then the trip up here.

“I think it’s a doable thing if you get your horse to the right stage of its preparation. It would be wonderful to win here – we’ve just got to find five or six lengths.

She is going to Aidan on Monday night so I just had a chat with him to help him get a feel for her.”

Moore said: “I think the stiff track found her out. She jumped out well just outside the leader but then just struggled up the hill.”

Sea Siren is not eligible for next month’s Darley July Cup, and O’Brien was asked about possibilities for her next race.

He said: “Obviously the lads (owners John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith) will talk about that.”

Lethal Force is one of two smart sprinters in the care of Clive Cox, who also has dual juvenile Group 1 winner and day one King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) fifth Reckless Abandon in his Lambourn stable.

Providing a first success at this level for Adam Kirby, the grey charged out of the gates and never looked like being headed, crossing the line two lengths clear of the 2011 hero and favourite Society Rock.

He was beaten a head by Society Rock on worse terms at the weights on their matchup in last month’s Group 2 Duke Of York Stakes.

“Lethal Force was having a blow in front and when Adam sent him on he was explosive – it was a very authoritative victory,” said Cox.

“He’s clearly very good at this trip so we’ll see how he is and plan the rest of the season from there.

“He’s in the July Cup but I’m not sure if Newmarket will be his track – although it does look logical. Reckless Abandon is in it as well, but we won’t worry about that now.

Society Rock and third-placed Krypton Factor also head for the July Cup, the next and final British leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.

Lethal Force is now eligible to collect the VRC’s $600,000 bonus for any horse that can win the Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic (1200m) after claiming an international leg of the Global Sprint Challenge should connections ponder a trip to Melbourne.


Hayes aims high with Pago

David Hayes has identified Pago Rock as a Group 1 contender after taking out Heat 8 of the All Victorian Sprint Series at Flemington today.

There is no doubting the Hall of Fame trainer’s eye for talent and he had little hesitation in saying that the five-year-old had the potential to tackle elite races during this year’s Spring Racing Carnival.

Hayes has earmarked the Group 2 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield in mid-August, and then the Group 1 Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at the same track five weeks later for the gelding.

Pago Rock ($11), who drifted from the early mark of $7 with bookmakers, made it three wins from as many starts over 1100-metres and notched a ninth victory in 17 outings.

It was a narrow, but strong victory over Zaramor ($8), trained by David Bourne and ridder by Jamie Mott, and Planet Voyage ($7) for Peter Moody and Jason Benbow.

“He carried the big weight today (57.5 kilos after a three kilo claim) and benefited from a run down the straight last week”, Hayes said.

“The plan was to give him cover but he ended up getting none”, Hayes noted after Pago Rock was forced to race on the pace.

Believing that good winter city form can carry on to early Spring black-type races, Hayes said that Pago Rock could be competitive especially with a plan to focus the program around features at Caulfield, beginning with the Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes (1200m) on 27 July.

“Around the bend at Caulfield, he can run a pretty good race,” referring to the scene of two of Pago Rock’s career wins.

As a result Pago Rock, who was ridden by apprentice Kayla Nisbet, will miss the $120,000 All Victorian Sprint Final (1200m) at Flemington on 6 July.

Pago Rock’s victory was Nisbet’s first at Flemington and continued the 3kg-claiming apprentice’s hot streak since joining the Hayes stable.

It is unusual for David Hayes to own a horse outright but he does so with the son of Rock Of Gibraltar through good fortune more than anything else.

An existing client of Hayes’ in Hong Kong lost interest in Pago Rock following an extended injury lay off.

“I said not to give up on him, so he gave him to me for nothing,” Hayes explained.

“I said that if he gets back to Group class I’ll give Pago Rock back to him.

“So the offer is there if he wants it.”


Estimate Wins Gold Cup for Queen at Royal Ascot

Grey clouds hung in sky on Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot but Estimate shone through as the Sir Michael Stoute-trained filly provided The Queen with victory in the feature race of the week – the Group 1 Gold Cup (4000m).

Her Majesty had enjoyed 21 previous Royal Ascot wins, the first in 1953, and Estimate extended the tally much to the joy of the 62,000-strong crowd who roared home the well-backed 7/2 favourite.

The victory was the first time in its 206-year history that the most prestigious of staying contests has been won in the colours of the reigning monarch.

The Queen watched on with unbridled joy from the Royal Box as Ryan Moore punched the four-year-old filly into the lead inside the final 400 metres of the marathon 4000-metre journey and held the challenge of Emirates Melbourne Cup-bound Simenon by a neck.

Estimate was only having the seventh start of her career and travelled into the unknown in terms of distance having scored over the trip of 3200 metres in the Sagaro Stakes last month.

Stoute, celebrating his 66th Royal Ascot win, said: “This rates as highly as anything and I know the pleasure it will have given The Queen because she has such a love for her breeding programme, and that’s why it will have been a bigger thrill to win with a filly, rather than a colt.

“Great teamwork went behind this filly, because sometimes she can be a very difficult.

“I always felt it was a massive task because she had to up her game from the Sagaro Stakes but her preparation had gone extremely well. She likes this place – they’ll have to frame more races for her here.

“Things have gone very smoothly. As a trainer you walk the box when horses have had a setback and get behind schedule, and there are doubts about whether they can run. Trip wise their had to be doubts, but the distaff side of her pedigree screams extreme stamina and her half-brother won the Gold Cup in 1999.

“She’s full of guts, very courageous and she relaxes so well in races which makes her a good staying filly. She’ll have a rest now because she’s had a very hard race.

“We’ve given her time between races in the past and looked after her, and now she’s looking after us – I could make a case for her getting better.

“This win is very high on my list, because it’s been done for a lady who, never mind being The Queen, loves racing, is a great supporter of racing and is so good for British racing.”

Moore added: “We’ve always had this race in mind, she won well.

“It’s fantastic to ride a winner here for the Queen and in the Gold Cup, it’s very special. She was holding them.”

Multiple champion Irish National Hunt trainer Willie Mullins was thrilled to be second with Simenon and now has his eyes set on another prestigious contest at Flemington on November 5th.

Mullins said: “He’s run a career best, which I said he might have to, and we’re very pleased.

“It’s probably a fantastic result for racing. I would have loved to have won and I’ll probably never be in this position again – hopefully one day.

“The stands just erupted from about the furlong marker and everyone was rushing from the front of the stand as everyone wanted to get a position.

“We want to take our horse to the Melbourne Cup. It’s going to make November a little busy!”

French stayer Top Trip ran into third while defending champion Colour Vision was far from disgraced in fourth place, little more than three lengths adrift of the winner.