AS BEMUSED trainer Robert Smerdon sought legal advice on Thursday night after being charged with acting in a way that was prejudicial to the interests of racing, former AFL player Mark Hunter, who placed the now infamous bet for banned jockey Damien Oliver, has been granted an indemnity.
Steward Rob Montgomery, who chaired the Oliver inquiry, said Hunter was a witness in the case and had been granted concessions for evidence he supplied to the hearing.
''Yes, Hunter had helped us during the course of the inquiry. And he had earned concessions for doing so. After all, it was his information that brought about the Oliver case. However, it is still an ongoing situation,'' he said.
Racing Victoria stewards charged Smerdon for passing on $11,000 in cash to Oliver in October 2010, the proceeds from a bet on a rival horse in a race in which he rode at Moonee Valley that same month.
''I did a favour for a friend, an unquestioned favour,'' Smerdon said. ''I didn't inquire what the money was for, for all I knew it could have been for a lot of reasons. And at the end of the day, it wasn't any of my business. I just passed it on.
''I can't get my head around how they [stewards] could come up with that charge under those circumstances. I don't think I have harmed the interests of racing. It was a case of a favour for a good friend.''
One of the state's leading trainers, Smerdon said he had been ''overwhelmed'' by support. ''The support has been encouraging. From stable clients to people outside my training business have said that they are supportive of me making a stand,'' he said.
The Victorian Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board will hear the charge against Smerdon later. The penalties for the charge range from a fine to a ban.
Smerdon told stewards he had arranged with Oliver to pick up the package of cash at his Caulfield home after trackwork.
Stewards contend that Smerdon did not take '' any step to determine the reason, or purpose for the payment from Mr Hunter to Mr Oliver''.
The Oliver betting affair, the disqualification of jockey Danny Nikolic for threatening chief steward Terry Bailey and investigations by stewards into the illegal raceday treatment of horses have left the industry reeling.
Oliver acknowledged the bet, but was allowed to ride through the spring, while the investigation was held over.
He was eventually disqualified from riding for 10 months.
The charge against Smerdon follows a recent $10,000 fine for negligence in allowing his horse Shewan to be treated on race day.