Damien Oliver betting saga continues

By: Mark Mazzaglia
January 8th, 2013

The Damien Oliver betting saga continues to roll on with professional punter Mark Hunter being instructed to present phone records to Racing Victoria stewards by Friday.

Hunter has already supplied his betting records to Rob Montgomery, the Racing Victoria steward who headed the Oliver investigation but has yet to hand over his phone records.

Montgomery said that a misunderstanding in the dates for Hunter to surrender all his records had created confusion but the punter had until January 11 to comply with the request.

“The date for Mr Hunter to provide us with information has always been January 11, I just had the wrong date in my mind,” Montgomery said.

Hunter has been asked to front stewards over his involvement with the placing of a $10,000 bet for jockey Damien Oliver on Miss Octopussy at Moonee Valley on October 1, 2010 after Oliver rang the punter from the jockey’s room requesting the bet.

Hunter subsequently placed the bet with Queensland based punter Laurie Bricknell and later passed on the winnings to Oliver via trainer Robert Smerdon.

Smerdon has also been charged with conduct prejudicial to the image, or interests, or welfare of racing and will front Victoria’s Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board on February 7 and is anxious to clear his name of any wrong doing.

“We have got a date now,” Smerdon said.

“January is a busy month with sales on so it has to be February.”

Smerdon trains under the banner of Aquanita Racing and the huge racing operation released a statement supporting one of their top trainers.

“Robert was unaware of the circumstances of its contents and was merely doing a mate a favour,” the statement read. “According to the stewards, he should have interrogated Mark as to its purpose before agreeing to do so. Because he didn’t, he has now been charged.

“We all feel very strongly that he has been wrongly targeted by the stewards in this matter.

“There is no doubt that the actions of the stewards have impacted Robert’s reputation and integrity – not only by the laying of the charge but also its timing and the delays that Robert faces in defending his position with the RAD Board due to their Christmas break.”

The Oliver betting scandal turned into a Spring Carnival side show with stewards allowing Oliver to ride right through the Melbourne Cup Carnival before laying charges and disqualifying him for eight months plus a further two months suspension for having the illegal bet.

While the champion jockey was dumped from several top fancies during the Carnival, he was still able to ride two Group 1 winners over Melbourne Cup week.

The top jockey scored on the Anthony Cumming’s trained Fiveandahalfstar in the $1.5m AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on November 3 and got Happy Trails home by a whisker to take out the $1m Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

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