Champion jockey Damien Oliver displayed a cavalier attitude and reckless indifference to the possible grave consequences when he deliberately rode his mount into another racehorse, a judge has found.
Oliver has failed to have his reckless riding charge downgraded but argues his 20-meeting suspension, which rules him out of Saturday’s prestigious Victoria Derby meeting, is too harsh.
He will find out on Tuesday if a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal judge will reduce the ban so he can ride in the $1.5 million Victoria Derby, with the winning jockey standing to earn $45,000.
Oliver’s first reckless riding charge in his 28 years as a jockey stemmed from his ride on eventual winner Flying Artie in the Blue Sapphire Stakes on October 12, when he angled out from behind the leader and made heavy contact with the horse to his outside.
VCAT vice president Judge Pamela Jenkins said Oliver’s actions were calculated and intentional, creating a clear circumstance of potential risk.
“In my view, the applicant exhibited a cavalier attitude, which is not moderated by his explanation to the effect that jockeys will commonly try to take another horse out, notwithstanding the rules,” Jenkins said on Monday.
“The applicant, as a very experienced professional jockey, is aware of the attendant dangers of placing another jockey at risk of falling and the consequential danger to other riders and horses where a fall occurs in front of a field of riders.
“By forcing his mount into the pathway of another jockey and abruptly displacing that jockey and his mount out of the way, the applicant displayed a reckless indifference to the possible grave consequences.”
Jenkins said Oliver displayed a cavalier attitude to the rules of racing, the paramount objectives of which were to ensure the safety of horse and rider.
“If riders continue to test the boundaries in the hope of defying the clear and attendant risks associated with a particular course of action, then the integrity of the rules are undermined and the safety of riders and horses alike become victims of the pursuit of competitive advantage.”
Racing Victoria barrister Paul Holdenson QC said stewards contended it was a serious and grave case of reckless riding.
“Damien Oliver is a highly experienced and skilled jockey who knows better and indeed knew of the risks and potential consequences of his deliberate, intentional and determined course of conduct,” he said.
Oliver’s barrister Damian Sheales asked for a reduced ban so the jockey can ride on Derby Day, the premier day of the racing year with $4.8 million prize money.
“In my submission the penalty is too severe taking into account the time of year,” Sheales said.
Pending the appeal result, Oliver has five rides booked on Saturday including Flying Artie in the Group One Coolmore Stud Stakes and Highlad in the Group One Victoria Derby.
As it stands he can return on Melbourne Cup day.