Hoof oil and water wash away the gloss

It was as if Damien Oliver had a spotlight on him at every turn for the first few hours at Flemington on Tuesday. But even his scandalous admission that he had bet illegally on a race was quickly blurred by other controversies and then, of course, the Melbourne Cup.

Oliver began the day as the story every media outlet wanted following revelations in Fairfax Media on Tuesday that he had admitted betting $10,000 on Miss Octopussy in a race where he rode another horse at Moonee Valley two years ago.

But it's hard to hold the spotlight on Cup day, especially when stewards were busy enforcing their new hard line on race-day treatments.

Stewards summoned trainer Leon Corstens to their room after a security guard saw him applying something to a hoof of Zabeelionaire. Corstens said it was ''herbal hoof oil'', but stewards ruled the treatment had not been permitted and fined him $500.

The stewards were far from done. After the third race, and about 80 kilometres away, near Geelong, the Compliance Assurance Team of Kane Ashby and Dion Villella was scaling walls and demanding cars be opened at the stables of Jamie Edwards and Bruce Elkington, housing Queenslander Nathan Schofield's Beseech.

Ashby and Villella found equipment capable of stomach-tubing a horse, illegal within 24 hours of a race, and a container of warm water. Ashby told chief steward Terry Bailey that Schofield said he intended to tube Beseech with the water as he was concerned the horse had not had enough to drink overnight and in the morning. He refused access to his car, claiming it held personal items.


Bailey said his story was fanciful and denying access to his car ''suggests you were hiding something'' and hindered the stewards' investigation. ''We can therefore not be satisfied that this horse has not been treated and so he is withdrawn.''

Trainers Robert Smerdon, Con Karakatsanis and Jim Conlan will be asked on Friday about allegedly illegal race-day treatments over the past few weeks.

Oliver had the ride on Green Moon in the Cox Plate but was ditched by connections, to be replaced by Craig Williams, when it was reported Oliver was under investigation.

The Cup ride on Green Moon had never been confirmed for Oliver, with owner Lloyd Williams stating on Tuesday night that his ''two favourite jockeys'', Brett Prebble and Hugh Bowman, always had the front running for Green Moon and Mourayan.

Oliver came back under the spotlight as he was legged aboard Americain for the Cup but, after an aggressive ride, Americain failed to finish off and wound up 11th.

Still, Oliver had a better day than the estimated 106,000 spectators. He rode in nine of the 10 races and piloted Walk With Attitude to win the sixth. At $170 for every losing ride and percentages for the win and a third that's $6705 for the day.