AUSTRALIA's leading jockey Damien Oliver allegedly bet around $10,000 on a rival horse to beat a horse he was riding in the same race, in an apparent, flagrant breach of the rules of racing.
Information that reveals Oliver wagered on horse Miss Octopussy in late 2010 was uncovered by authorities investigating the horse racing industry as part of probe centering on alleged race fixing involving controversial jockey Danny Nikolic and a horse called Smoking Aces. It's understood that Oliver used a middleman to place his bet on Miss Octopussy, which won the race.
As a part of an ongoing investigation into the racing industry, The Sunday Age can also reveal that:
■ Champion jockey Mark Zahra was offered a $5000 kickback - but was ultimately paid only $3000 - to ride his horse to advantage Danny Nikolic's ultimately winning ride on Smoking Aces at Cranbourne in April last year.
■ Nikolic attempted to pressure a small number of figures who work at Caulfield race track to train Smoking Aces in a certain fashion in the months before the April race.
■ Federal police detected leading jockey Craig Newitt giving tips to a major drug trafficker around 2006.
■ A prominent underworld informer in Melbourne's gangland wars told police he had once been drug dealer Tony Mokbel's racing ''bagman'' and had made improper payments to jockey Jim Cassidy.
The informer, who was convicted and agreed to testify over the 2003 killings of Jason Moran and Pasquale Barbaro, told federal law enforcement authorities around 2006 that he was once given $25,000 by Tony Mokbel to give to jockey Cassidy in return for inside information on his races.
The rules of racing prohibit jockeys betting on races they ride in and bans the selling of inside information about their races.
The informer said he flew to Sydney with the money and handed Cassidy the cash.
Earlier this year, The Age reported that state authorities had also uncovered information that showed that Cassidy had received at least $90,000 from Mokbel in return for inside information.
Cassidy, who has publicly denied receiving the money or giving tips to Mokbel, has never been held to account over this conduct, despite at least three policing agencies having evidence showing it occurred.
It is understood Damien Oliver, who has twice ridden the Melbourne Cup winner, bet via a third party on favourite Miss Octopussy to win a night race at Moonee Valley on October 1, 2010.
Oliver was riding in the same race on the second favourite, a horse called Europa Point. It is likely Oliver would have doubled his money with his bet, depending on the exact odds given.
The Sunday Age has no evidence and is not suggesting that Oliver altered his own riding behaviour to favour his wager.
When The Sunday Age asked Oliver several questions about his alleged bet on Miss Octopussy, he repeatedly said: ''no comment.'' Asked if he was prepared to deny betting on the horse, Oliver said: ''no comment.''
Oliver is only one of several jockeys who have come to the attention of police or stewards in the last few years.
Jockey Craig Newitt and a well-known trainer both had multiple dealings with one or more members of a largely Italian-Australian crime syndicate investigated by the federal police and the Victoria Police between 2004 and 2009 in connection to several alleged drug importations. Two members of this syndicate, who can't be named due to court suppressions, have raced several horses in Victoria over the past five years.
When asked by The Sunday Age about his dealings with one syndicate figure, Newitt said he had no idea the man was involved in illegal activity. ''We only ever talked about horses and how they were going,'' he said.
Last week, the Victoria Police - which is moving to finalise its investigation into Danny Nikolic over the Smoking Aces race fixing allegations - banned Nikolic, 37, from entering Crown Casino.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal will on Tuesday hear Nikolic's application to have a stay of proceedings in order to return to riding while the tribunal considers his bid to overturn his two-year disqualification.
He was disqualified by Victoria's racing disciplinary board for threatening chief steward Terry Bailey.
Nikolic and Zahra could not be reached for comment.