Champion jockey Damien Oliver has vowed to return to the saddle after serving a 10-month ban for making a “spur-of-the-moment”, $10,000 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,” Oliver 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.
Oliver had to pause and wipe away tears as he told the stewards he feared he had lost his wife and children.
He said his decision to place the bet was totally unplanned and he hadn’t discussed it with any other jockey or trainer.
The $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 $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 a rival horse,” Oliver told the stewards.
Oliver’s lawyer, Robert Richter, QC, described the jockey as “an exemplary man in the industry” who had committed a completely isolated act.
He said Oliver’s deep remorse had been demonstrated by his admissions, without which the stewards would have had insufficient evidence to charge him.
Steward Rob Montgomery who headed a three-member panel hearing the case said the mitigating circumstances had been taken into account in coming to a penalty.
They also agreed Oliver had ridden his horse in the race in question to the best of his ability.
But he stressed racing’s integrity had to be maintained and the betting public needed to have confidence in the industry.
Oliver is banned from entering racetracks, racing stables or training tracks during the first eight months of the ban, but will be allowed to ride trackwork for the final two months.
He can resume riding in races on September 13, 2013.