Racing: Contrite Oliver vows to resume riding career

By Mike Hedge

Damien Oliver will ride at the next spring carnival. Photo / Getty Images
Damien Oliver will ride at the next spring carnival. Photo / Getty Images

Victorian jockey Damien Oliver has vowed to return to the saddle after serving a 10-month ban for making a "spur-of-the-moment", A$10,000 ($12,700) bet on a rival horse in a race in which he rode two years ago.

He has also asked for public forgiveness, declaring he has always given his mounts every chance.

Stewards disqualified Oliver for eight months and added another two-month suspension on the betting charge.

They also suspended him for one month for using a mobile phone from inside the Moonee Valley jockeys' room to place the bet with that penalty to be served concurrently.

Oliver revealed during Tuesday's hearing his life was in turmoil and his marriage on the rocks when he made the bet.

He said he had developed a drinking problem and was battling a variety of psychological issues at the time.

"It was a spur-of-the-moment decision that I will regret for the rest of my life and beyond," the inductee into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2009 said in a statement released after the hearing.

"There are no excuses for the fact that I breached the trust of many people in the industry and I broke a fundamental rule in racing.

"I want people to know that while I have admitted to this serious breach and can offer no excuses, I have never in my 24 years of racing, not tried to my hardest to win when I am on the back of a horse."

Oliver earlier made an emotional plea to stewards saying the bet was made during "the worst period of my life".

The eight-time premier rider said his wife had left him and taken their three children causing him deep grief and distress. He said he had resorted to binge drinking and had sought psychological help and drug and alcohol counselling.

"I felt despondent and lost my self belief in my ability as a jockey," he said.

He said his decision to place the bet was totally unplanned and he hadn't discussed it with any other jockey or trainer.

The A$10,000 bet on the horse Miss Octopussy at Moonee Valley was placed on credit through form analyst Mark Hunter who passed it on to retired Queensland bookmaker Laurie Bricknell. The profit on the bet was A$11,000 and was handed by Hunter to trainer Robert Smerdon who passed the cash on to Oliver.

"It is the only time I have ever placed a bet on a rival horse," Oliver told the stewards.

Oliver is banned from entering racetracks, racing stables or training tracks during the first eight months of the ban, but can ride trackwork for the final two months.

-AAP

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