Top jockeys caught up in racing scandal
|Top jockeys caught up in racing scandal - 15th Aug 2012|
A scandal involving fixing horse races has spread, with at least four top jockeys, professional punters and other racing identities across Australia now under investigation.|
In addition to the Smoking Aces affair - which involves fresh allegations that top jockey Danny Nikolic paid kickbacks to a third party to fix a race - authorities are also examining corruption allegations linked to several other horse races.
One of the allegations involves one of Australia's most famous jockeys, who bet thousands of dollars on a rival horse to win in a race in which he was riding.
Meanwhile, a source from the wagering company Betfair has confirmed a major investigation is being conducted into lay betting - in which a person backs a horse to lose - involving more than two dozen races and another leading jockey.
''We have been aware of it for some time and we have told the authorities,'' the Betfair source said. ''It is the most serious case we have at the moment.''
The chief executive of Racing NSW, Peter V'landys, said the allegations seemed to be confined to Victoria. ''We're going to be vigilant in NSW to ensure there's no allegations here.''
Mr V'landys said Racing NSW was in touch with Victoria Police to remain up to date with the allegations.
The NSW government has already signalled tough new laws related to sports betting, including 10-year jail terms.
In other developments:
Federal and state police are holding extensive information - which has not been passed on to racing authorities - about the corrupt activity of three licensed Victorian bookmakers;
A fourth bookmaker, Charlie Norris - who was exposed in 2010 as operating his business with a convicted drug trafficker - has resigned midway through a probe by state gaming authorities;
Efforts by the Victorian Chief Commissioner of Police, Ken Lay, to ban organised crime figures - including a prominent harness racing owner, Paul Sequenzia - from the racetrack have been stalled due to legal problems;
The Victorian government and racing authorities are at loggerheads about whether changes to the law are needed to allow stewards to question non-licensed racing identities suspected of corrupting the sport.
The revelations about other cases of suspected corruption undermine claims made by the Australian Racing Board boss, Peter McGauran, and the chief of Victorian racing, Rob Hines, last week - after the Herald and Four Corners revealed allegations of race fixing and other misconduct - that integrity problems were limited to allegations involving a single race.
Mr Hines's stewards hold significant information, including on lay betting in 2010, that also conflicts with his public comments.
In connection to the Smoking Aces scandal, sources close to Nikolic have revealed he offered to pay another jockey a kickback of up to $5000 in return for helping to manipulate a race at Cranbourne, Victoria, in April last year.
As many as three jockeys, including Nikolic, who rode Smoking Aces to victory in the race under scrutiny, are being investigated over the alleged fix.
Sources at Caulfield have also confirmed that the former AFL player, racing media identity and jockey adviser Mark Hunter is being investigated by authorities over links to the Smoking Aces scandal.
It is understood Mr Hunter, who provides riding advice to jockeys for a fee, had contact with members of the Nikolic family in connection with a betting plunge on Smoking Aces before the April 2011 race. He could not be reached for comment.
Despite police publicly confirming last week they were investigating the Smoking Aces ride in connection with alleged race fixing, Nikolic has faced no action by Racing Victoria. He continues to ride, and was in six races over the weekend. He is due to ride a further six times this week.
The Victorian Racing Minister, Denis Napthine, said the government was ready to introduce new laws if police, racing integrity bodies or others in the industry identified need for change.
''The legislators have to be constantly vigilant and constantly ready to close a loophole or introduce a new power if they are identified and justified,'' Dr Napthine said. ''Integrity is paramount and we will do whatever is necessary to ensure integrity.''
Courtesy Fairfax Digital, www.smh.com.au and Nick McKenzie & Richard Baker