Why is he still in the saddle?
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AUSTRALIA'S top jockey Damien Oliver - who will ride equal favourite Americain in today's Melbourne Cup - has admitted to racing authorities that he bet on a rival horse in a 2010 race and expects to be charged soon.
Oliver has told his supporters he expects to be suspended for between nine to 12 months - but that he is also considering retiring in a move that could see him avoid a public hearing or a penalty from Racing Victoria.
Under pressure ... Jockey Damien Oliver at Flemington this morning. Photo: Justin McManus
In revelations that will rock the spring carnival, sources close to Oliver confirmed to Fairfax Media that the jockey last month had admitted to breaching the rules of racing by betting $10,000 on a rival horse, Miss Octopussy, at Moonee Valley two years ago. Jockeys are forbidden from betting on any horse, while betting on a horse in the same race is one of the gravest breaches of racing laws.
The admission by Oliver raises serious questions about why he has been allowed to continue riding, and why he hasn't been charged by stewards, after Fairfax first revealed details of the betting scandal just over three weeks ago.
Since then, Oliver has spoken to racing officials and admitted placing the bet. Publicly, Oliver has refused to deny placing the bet.
Star jockey Damien Oliver expects to be charged soon. Photo: Pat Scala
Oliver stands to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars if he rides successfully today, following his ride on Saturday's Victoria Derby winner, Fiveandahalfstar, which earned him $45,000.
Fairfax can also reveal that Oliver's improper betting has been known to police since at least the middle of the year.
Several senior racing sources described the fact that Oliver continues to ride as a disgrace that highlighted the ongoing failure of authorities - and the Baillieu government - to effectively deal with serious breaches of integrity that continue to blight the industry.
Three jockeys riding in the Melbourne Cup - Oliver, Jimmy Cassidy and a third jockey who Fairfax is not naming for legal reasons - are all the subject of serious corruption allegations being investigated by authorities.
When asked yesterday about the latest Oliver developments, Racing Minister Denis Napthine refused to comment or say whether he would ask for a briefing on the matter from Racing Victoria. ''I don't comment on ongoing investigations,'' he said. Opposition racing spokesman Martin Pakula described Dr Napthine's handling of the growing cloud over racing as shameful.
''The need for Racing Victoria to be given the powers it is asking for is a no-brainer. It is nonsensical for the minister to keep sitting on his hands instead of giving them the powers they have repeatedly called for.''
Racing Victoria chief executive Rob Hines declined to respond to specific questions about the Oliver affair, other than to say the inquiry into the jockey's betting ''is expected to be finalised in the next week or so''. But he issued a strong call for the government to give his agency the power to immediately stand down jockeys suspected of corruption.
''Racing Victoria would welcome a wider stand-down power for the stewards or police that could be used when there is information to support the need to avert a serious risk to the integrity of racing," Mr Hines said.
Sources in the Oliver camp said that about a fortnight ago his legal representatives had spoken to racing officials about betting on Miss Octopussy in the Moonee Valley race.
Privately, Oliver has also raised concerns that racing authorities believe he may have placed other bets. It is understood that at least one betting account linked to a person close to Oliver has been examined by investigators.
In the case of Cassidy, New South Wales chief steward Ray Murrihy announced late last month that he was examining fresh revelations in Fairfax newspapers that a Melbourne underworld figure had confessed to police in 2006 that he had paid $25,000 to the jockey on behalf of jailed gangland boss Tony Mokbel in return for tips. Jockeys are banned from giving tips about their horses in return for money.
The third Melbourne Cup jockey under investigation is suspected of also giving tips to punters.
Yesterday, Fairfax Media asked the state's independent racing watchdog, Sal Perna, about the latest developments and whether he was concerned about how they had been handled by authorities. Mr Perna said the issues were ''matters for RVL and/or Victoria Police and not for my office at this time''.