Racing industry figures are confident an inquiry into allegations of race fixing in Victoria will reveal the sport to be free of widespread corruption.
Victoria’s Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna announced the inquiry on Thursday, at the same time declaring his belief the industry is largely clean.
The inquiry follows media revelations that police are investigating widespread corruption in racing after receiving allegations about a race run at Cranbourne in April 2011.
“The inquiry aims to identify systemic integrity issues across the three codes – thoroughbred, harness and greyhounds,” Mr Perna said.
“I do not believe there are widespread integrity issues within the racing industry in Victoria.
“However, as an independent authority with the mandate to oversee the integrity of racing … I have a duty to address these allegations comprehensively.”
The CEO of the state government authority that oversees racing, Rob Hines, said the inquiry would aim at providing Racing Victoria stewards with the necessary information to allow them to open their own inquiry.
“The police have information, but they are legally prevented from sharing all of it with us,” Mr Hines said.
“So we are hopeful evidence will come forward from this inquiry that will give us the basis to conduct our own investigation.”
One of Victoria’s most successful racing trainers, Mick Price, also welcomed the inquiry as an “act of good faith” in an industry he says is better governed than most.
“This is a great industry for hard-working, decent people,” he said.
“I hope the people who are making these race-fixing claims now take the opportunity to put up or shut up.”
The Perna inquiry was instigated by repeated claims in Fairfax newspapers and the ABC that race fixing is widespread and an allegedly rigged race run at Cranbourne in April 2011 had a link to an unsolved murder case.
Police command subsequently denied any link, but the alleged connection was repeated on ABC television by an officer investigating the murder of racing identity Les Samba.
No official details of the investigation into the Cranbourne race have been made public, except that the race-fixing allegations emerged during the investigation of the Samba murder.
Mr Samba was once the father-in-law of prominent Melbourne jockey Danny Nikolic, who has been named in connection with the Cranbourne race.
Nikolic denies any involvement in race fixing.
Mr Perna said his inquiry would attempt to determine the veracity of the race-fixing allegations and to ensure the Victorian racing industry was not inappropriately tainted.
“I hold the racing industry in high regard and questions over the integrity of racing must not be left unanswered,” he said.
As welcome as it may be, the inquiry will inevitably be limited.
Like racing stewards, Mr Perna does not have open access to police evidence and is unable to compel anyone to attend.
The inquiry will start on August 20 and run until September 14.