Race-fixing scandal spreads
THE racing corruption scandal has dramatically widened, with at least four top jockeys along with professional punters and other racing identities now under investigation.
In addition to the Smoking Aces scandal – which The Age can reveal 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 being probed involves one of Australia’s most famous jockeys, who The Age cannot identify for legal reasons, who bet thousands of dollars on a rival horse to win a race in which the jockey was riding. The race was at a metropolitan Melbourne track within the past two years.
Meanwhile, a source from wagering company Betfair has confirmed a major investigation is being conducted into suspicious ”lay betting” – in which a punter backs a horse not to come first – involving more than two dozen races and another leading jockey.
The Age can also reveal that:
■Federal and state policing agencies are holding extensive information – which has not been passed to racing authorities – about the corrupt activity of three licensed Victorian bookmakers.
■A fourth bookmaker, Charlie Norris, recently resigned midway through a probe by the state’s gaming authorities into his business association with a convicted drug trafficker.
■Efforts by Chief Commissioner Ken Lay to ban organised crime figures – including prominent horse owner Paul Sequenzia – from the track have been stalled by legal problems.
■The state 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.
In connection to the Smoking Aces scandal, sources close to champion jockey Danny Nikolic have revealed he offered to pay another jockey a kickback of up to $5000 in return for helping manipulate a race at Cranbourne in April 2011.
As many as three jockeys, including Nikolic – who rode Smoking Aces to victory in an April 2011 race that is under scrutiny – are now being investigated over the alleged race fix.
Sources at Caulfield have also confirmed to The Age that former AFL player, racing media identity and jockey adviser Mark Hunter is being probed by authorities for his links to betting tied with the Smoking Aces scandal. So too are Danny Nikolic’s brothers – former jockey Tommy Nikolic and former Queensland-based trainer John Nikolic.
It is understood Mr Hunter, who provides riding advice to jockeys in return for a small fee, had contact with members of the Nikolic family in connection to a betting plunge on Smoking Aces prior to the April 2011 race. Mr Hunter could not be reached for comment.
Despite police publicly confirming last week that they are investigating the ride of Smoking Aces in connection to alleged race fixing, Nikolic has faced no action by Racing Victoria. He continues to ride, and raced six mounts over the weekend. He is due to ride a further six times this week.
Racing Minister Denis Napthine yesterday said the government was ready to introduce new laws if police, racing integrity bodies or others in the industry identified the 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.”
But opposition spokesman Martin Pakula said Mr Napthine should act immediately.
”Denis Napthine must act, without further delay, to give the stewards the powers they need to deal with unlicensed persons, and to enable police to share information with racing officials,” Mr Pakula said.
In the wake of allegations of race fixing and corruption aired last week by The Age and Four Corners, NSW yesterday became the first Australian jurisdiction to announce the introduction of race fixing laws, which will carry a 10-year jail penalty.
The revelations about other cases of suspected corruption in the sport undermine the claims made by Australian Racing Board CEO Peter McGuaran and Victorian racing chief Rob Hines last week – after The Age and Four Corners revealed allegations of race fixing and other misconduct – that integrity problems were limited to allegations involving a single race.
Age Racing Scandal investigation widens, Herald Sun silence is deafening.
20 years ago HK racing was on its knees, enter ICAC to stamp out corruption, now delivers world’s best. Aust must follow model