29 October 2012

Ten questions for Racing Victoria Limited...

Ten days ago we put several questions to RVL's media rep which they promptly ignored. So here are the questions again, in detail:
  1. Considering it has made no admission to the contrary, does RVL stand by its official statement on August 15 that it "...has no knowledge of the allegation ... regarding a jockey wagering on another horse in the same race?
  2. If RVL does know of the allegation, when did it become aware, and does it concern D Oliver?
  3. If RVL knew about the Oliver allegation before The Age named him on October 14, when was it planning to announce that knowledge to the general public?
  4. Does RVL know the identity of the unnamed third party who placed the alleged bet on Oliver's behalf?
  5. When was the three person panel appointed to conduct the investigation? Who appointed it and who decided the Chief Steward should not sit on it?
  6. Has this panel held any hearings or interviewed D Oliver or any other licensed person about the matters cited in the Age reports?
  7. If not, when does it plan to?
  8. If it has, why are those hearings being held in camera or without accredited media present?
  9. Despite the fact police are investigating, why has RVL not released any terms of reference or specific details about the process it is undergoing in its own investigations?
  10. Is RVL delaying its investigation until after the Spring Carnival?
RVL can send their responses to turfconfidential@gmail.com and we will insert them.

UPDATE: RVL Replies:
"Racing Victoria’s investigation into jockey Damien Oliver is ongoing, and we will not be commenting on any matters relating to it at this stage."

Is Damien Oliver really under investigation for making a secret bet on a rival?

* UPDATE: Yes, Damien Oliver really is under investigation by Stewards. *
Is Damien Oliver really under stewards investigation for allegedly making a secret bet on a rival? Racing Victoria has still made no such public admission. Focusing on just the Oliver allegation, let's revisit the timeline to reveal RVL's apparent mission to keep the racing and betting public as much in the dark as possible.

On August 15, Hines released a statement reacting to a report in the Fairfax papers that an an unamed jockey "bet thousands of dollars on a rival horse to win in a race in which he was riding". Hines said RVL:
"...has no knowledge of the allegation in today's Fairfax newspapers regarding a jockey wagering on another horse in the same race and is not aware of the source of this allegation."

"The odd blip" pushes RVL to hand off integrity to Police

Racing Victoria Racing Limited CEO Rob Hines yesterday appeared to walk away from a zero-tolerance policy of corruption in racing:
"It's just a fact that people are never convinced that racing is completely clean... just occasionally there'll be instances and I think the general public know that and understand that the odd blip won't affect us."
In a revealing interview with TVN's youthful host, Bruce Clark, Hines appeared to hand-off the safeguarding of racing integrity to law enforcement:
"The Stewards are not law enforcement, the police are the law enforcement agency and we have to run second string to them. So when they have a criminal investigation we have to sit back and wait for that to be resolved." 
So there you go punters, bet with confidence, and all will be revealed in the fullness of post-Carnival time.

UPDATE: RVL winds back claims it must "sit back and wait" for Police

26 October 2012

Hold the phone, Sal's on the case.

Reassuring that when you call the Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner, the Commissioner picks up the phone. Either he needs more staff or he's keen to demonstrate his accessibility to the public. Or both.
"I think of myself as public defender," says Sal Perna, "It's my job to ensure the public has confidence in racing integrity."
Perna wound up his month-long inquiry into race fixing allegations more than 5 weeks ago. We didn't miss him on that occasion, labeling his invitation convicted jailed drug baron Tony Mokbel to spill his guts from the gaol cell as an "extraordinary stunt".
Perna has had no response to his letter to Fat Tony, but from what we've heard from sources we are prepared to roll back the outrage and cut Sal some slack.
A former Victorian homicide cop who comes from "outside" racing, Perna has collected 60 "information reports" on his listening tour and interviewed both law enforcement and racing controlling authorities.
Was it two way traffic down Russell Street? Did law enforcement share information and intelligence with him?
"Yes they did."
Did he know about the Oliver secret betting allegation during his inquiry?
"I cannot talk about specific cases."
Will you be making your findings public?
"Yes and I will be taking a two-pronged approach: first, I will report on the race-fixing allegations and whether any corruption is systemic, and second, I will be looking at the broader issues."
  1. oversight of licensed persons
  2. Sharing of information with law enforcement
  3. the powers of his role as integrity commissioner
Bated breath. The whole world is watching, kind of.

20 October 2012

19 October 2012

ABC The Drum: The turf's inconvenient truths

"On the eve of its marquee event, the Spring Carnival, Australia's multi-billion dollar racing industry is circling the wagons. As the great and the good of the international turf descend on Melbourne to compete in our biggest races, allegations of corruption and scandal are spoiling the party big time.
"Three weeks ago jockey Danny Nikolic, already under investigation for alleged race fixing, was banned for two years by authorities for threatening the chief steward. This week champion rider Damien Oliver's hero status was shattered by allegations he bet $10,000 on another runner in a race in which he was riding. And the favourite for tomorrow's Caulfield Cup, Glencadam Gold, will be ridden by Jimmy Cassidy, one of Australia's greatest ever jockeys, and the subject of ongoing allegations that he received corrupt payments from incarcerated drug lord Tony Mokbel. Cassidy has denied the claim.
"From a media standpoint, the most notable feature of these revelations is who broke these stories: not the racing journos who cover the game week in, week out, but "non-racing" news and investigative reporters."

Read our full story over at the ABC's The Drum.

18 October 2012

Leading stipe Murrihy dead against jockeys betting

ATC Chief Steward Ray Murrihy has slammed suggestions that jockeys should be allowed to legally bet on their own mounts, warning that both integrity and safety would be compromised.
"It alarms me to see some very ill-informed comments around in this area," Murrihy told Turf Confidential. "The idea that any of the current problems we've seen in the news will be solved by allowing jockeys to bet on their own mounts is in my view a very short sighted approach."
In the wake of the weekend's allegations that Damien Oliver placed a $10,000 bet on a rival mount, there has been a steady stream of calls to change the rules of racing to allow jockeys to bet on their own mounts.

Murrihy, the most respected and experienced steward in Australia, is having none of it.
"I can imagine scores of scenarios in which this could seriously undermine confidence in racing and integrity," said Murrihy.
"For instance, say a jockey had ten thousand on his mount one week when it won and then didn't back it a week later when the same horse lost. I'm sure both punters and the stewards would both be very concerned to see things like that. 

15 October 2012

Journalists discuss racing corruption revelations

Explosive matters are canvassed in depth in Shane Anderson's interview today on RSN with Nick McKenzie of The Age. The interview reveals:
  • The Age has known about the Oliver allegations for "a little while".
  • The Age did not know that Racing Victoria Stewards were investigating the Miss Octopussy event (see above).
  • McKenzie gave Damien Oliver the opportunity to deny the allegations before The Age went to press but Oliver would only offer "no comment". McKenzie said Oliver "does not address the central allegation in his statement".
  • on the Smoking Aces affair, McKenzie expects criminal charges to be laid after Victorian Police were at Caulfield last week "asking about the Smoking Aces affair and other bits and pieces".
  • Another race is under stewards investigation from February this year.
  • Most races are above board but authorities "are kidding themselves" if they don't think up to 30 races might be involved.

Alleged journalists "disappointed" by leaks during Spring Carnival

The news about Damien Oliver had broken and TVN's Bruce Clark was not happy:
"Who leaked this story to The Age? It can't be the police because they're not investigating this."
Clarke was incredulous that such a bombshell could be dropped six days before a Caulfield Cup. 

Back in August the Racing Review chums were similarly bothered when The Age's Nick McKenzie made his first rude intrusions into Shangri-La. Clarke continued:
"This investigation is by the (Racing Victoria) Stewards! The basis of all these stories has been leaks from Victorian Police to The Age. It can't be the police (that leaked the story) because they're not investigating this." 
Clark didn't reveal how he knew police weren't investigating, nor did he say how he'd got access to all The Age's sources to be able to make such a claim. But then Adrian Dunn said something really extraordinary:
"Well, it's a Pandora's Box, because this was all supposedly going to be happening AFTER the Spring Carnival, it's now right in the middle of the Spring Carnival."
Freeze. Hold it right there.
"...this was all supposedly going to be happening AFTER the Spring Carnival..."

Damien, say it isn't so...

We heard the rumours months ago. And like anyone who's ever given a damn about our turf, we still don't want this to be true.

If it is true, this will be a tragedy not just for the Oliver the man, but for anyone who has ever put their trust in D.Oliver the jockey: owners, trainers, punters. After that Melbourne Cup, when the whole damn country was with him, when we cried with him and willed him to victory... We don't want this to be true. Damien, say it isn't so.

We read the statement.

09 October 2012

TVN Board brouhaha unearths consultants' bonanza

Cracking yarn from Chris Roots in the Sydney Morning Herald on the brouhaha consuming contenders for the new TVN board, still in caretaker mode and with its CEO about to leave. Roots reports:
"Victoria Racing Club chairman Michael Burn and Melbourne Racing Club chairman Michael Symons have been put forward by their respective clubs. But the Herald understands their (sic) is opposition to both men because they previously held consultancy contracts with the broadcaster.
"The consultancy contracts were identified while Racing NSW was carrying out due diligence on TVN.
"It is understood Burn and Symons charged TVN $15,000 a month each for work on a failed attempt to take over Sky Channel and to secure the continuation of the television rights for Sydney metropolitan racing with the Australian Turf Club last year."
And then this:

05 October 2012

Nikolic rolls last dice as Hines hangs tough

As widely expected, disqualified jockey Danny Nikolic has lodged a legal appeal with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal against this week's earlier decision by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board, but there will be no "immediate" return to the track. Nikolic is seeking to have two applications heard on VCAT's Occupational & Business Regulation List:
  1. a stay of enforcement of the penalty,
  2. the overturning of the RAD Board decision. 
A VCAT spokesperson told TC that the first matter was expected to be listed on Monday and would "likely be heard within a week to 10 days".
  • If successful it may mean Nikolic will be free to ride as early as the Caulfield Cup meeting on October 27.  
  • If unsuccessful, contrary to popular opinion, Nikolic will have no further avenue of appeal unless his lawyers can make a case that VCAT erred on a point of law. Then, and only then, could he be granted leave to appeal to Victoria's Supreme Court or Court of Appeal. 
It would need to be some error.

Meanwhile, unsurprisingly, Racing Victoria CEO Rob Hines has backed the RAD Board decision, revealing it was in line with what Stewards were seeking. Hines rejected reported claims that the penalty should have conformed to standard UK integrity practice of a 41 day suspension instead of a two year disqualification. And he is in no doubt that Chief Steward Terry Bailey was:
 "...an outstanding individual and he's doing a fabulous job".
UPDATE:  The Age reports Nikolic's application on the stay of the penalty will be heard next Tuesday, October 16.

02 October 2012

RAD bans Nikolic for two years for threats "delivered for maximum impact"

Steward's attire c.1890. 
Disqualified jockey Danny Nikolic -- better known as just "Danny" to the racing media -- copped a caning from Racing Victoria's legal counsel during today's RAD Board appeal hearing.
Addressing the central allegation that on 4 September 2012, at Seymour, Nikolic verbally abused Chief Steward Terry Bailey and threatened his family, counsel for the stewards Sandip Mukerjea of Minter Ellison declared:
"The threat was delivered in the absence of witnesses so as to have the maximum impact." 
Mukerjea told the three-man panel, which does not hear testimony under oath, that Nikolic had a pattern of "abusive, disrespectful and threatening conduct" towards racing authorities. He had "verbally attacked Bailey four times since February 2010 and that stewards did not want him back riding".

Slam dunk. Guilty on both counts. Two years and one year, served concurrently.

01 October 2012

Brits must brace for the Asian racing century

QEII heads in the wrong direction.
In Britain, the turf is the second most popular spectator sport after football, and is enjoying a popular revival due to the exploits of wonder horse Frankel. However that august journal of record, The Economist, says beneath the silver lining lay threatening clouds: prize money has "plummeted" and the racing business is fast shifting to the Eastern hemisphere. The article charts the challenge to Britain from Asia, from Dubai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and especially China, "where racing seems to be blossoming into a high-society pursuit":
"The wealthy Chinese are “turning much more attention to racing,” and regard it as an untapped industry, says Felix Wang, author of the China Horse Racing Bible. Though the sport was legalised only in 2008, already five racetrack permits have been awarded. The most ambitious is Tianjin’s Equine Culture City, which at an estimated cost of $2 billion will have two racetracks and be home to 3,000 horses. Racing is due to start in 2014, the Year of the Horse."
Coolmore announced in April a €40m deal to dispatch 100 broodmares and several stallions to Tianjin. In fact Ireland is seeking first-mover advantage in China, but a more skeptical view from a Shanghai expat casts a shadow over the dash for cash.