Horse racing is big in Australia though their oversight of the sport and the accompanying betting historically hasn’t been as good as their UK horse racing counterparts. That could be about to change in response to a race fixing scandal that rocked the country’s horse racing world during the height of the season. A police sweep in the southern state of Victoria resulted in the arrest of a number of prominent players including horse owners, trainers and jockeys.
Racing Victoria, the oversight body that administers the Melbourne Cup and other major events, is now forced to take swift action in hopes of reassuring the betting public that their races are on the up and up. Their initial responses will be to add two full time stewards to their ‘Integrity’ division that is responsible for oversight of irregular betting activity. In addition, they’re proposing more severe sanctions for race fixing offenders.
Racing Victoria CEO Bernard Saundry issued the following statement:
“Deterrence and detection are the platforms of our integrity program and the additional stewards will ensure an even greater presence in the field”
“We are undertaking an extensive review of the introduction of minimum and maximum penalties which would serve as a further deterrent for those considering breaching the rules.”
“The introduction of harsher penalties definitely has merit and will be given very strong consideration.”
Racing Victoria was strongly criticized for its handling of a race fixing investigation involving Damien Oliver, one of the country’s most successful jockeys. Oliver has been suspended for 10 months in the matter but will still be allowed to ride in a number of the most lucrative RV races including the Melbourne Cup. In addition, Oliver was allowed to ride in these major races during the investigation process.
The outcry over the Racing Victoria investigation and sanction of Oliver has resulted in additional inquiry over irregularities in several other races. Sources close to the matter indicate that at least two other races are under investigation by the police and state horse racing administrators. Victoria’s racing minister Denis Napthine has demanded a probe into the handling of the case. He’s asked Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna–who is responsible for sanctioning the sport on a national level–to start a full scale inquiry into the matter.