James McDonald (centre blue silks) rides Hartnell to victory in the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. (AAP Image/Julian Smith) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
James McDonald (centre blue silks) rides Hartnell to victory in the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. (AAP Image/Julian Smith) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY JULIAN SMITH

OPINION: Let jockeys take a punt on themselves

RACING: I once asked a Caulfield Cup-winning jockey whether he'd ever had a bet on one of his own mounts.

"No. That's against the rules of racing," he said with a wry grin.

Let's face it. Jockeys have been betting on races since Jesus rode in the Jerusalem Cup.

As a punter, an unsuccessful owner and keen lover of Australian thoroughbred racing, I'd be more than happy for the governing bodies to allow jockeys to bet on their own mounts.

The question has again been raised after Sydney-based jockey James McDonald stood himself down from race riding pending an inquiry into an alleged bet on boom colt Astern.

In McDonald's home country of New Zealand, jockeys were once permitted to bet on their own mounts, before the laws were tightened in 2014.

Instead of burying our heads in the sand and pretending jockeys aren't wagering, why not provide a legal and transparent option for them to take a punt?

Brisbane premiership-winning trainer Robert Heathcote has been on the record as saying he'd support hoops being able to bet on their own mounts - 100-time Group 1-winning jockey Jim Cassidy is too.

Racing stewards and officials do their utmost to provide transparency for punters, who week after week part with their hard-earned.

To complement the new rules, authorities could introduce the harshest penalties for activity that might bring the integrity of a race into question.

I'd like to see jockeys allowed to place bets on the totaliser (TOTE), on-course, prior to the start of a meeting.

The information should then be made available to punters throughout the day.

If I knew a jockey had placed a bet on a horse I was going to back, I'd be much more confident parting with my cash.

If a jockey was found to have bet on, or laid a horse, other than through the prescribed method, they should have the book thrown at them.

Three-time Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Damien Oliver was suspended for six months in 2010 after he placed a bet on a rival runner (Miss Octopussy) in a race at Moonee Valley.

If my proposed rules were introduced, that penalty should be tripled, if not quadrupled.

The argument against is that it could still be used to throw punters off-guard.

For example, a jockey could bet on his or her mount, knowing full well it wasn't going to win, and inflate the odds of another runner.

It could also make way for more aggressive and potentially dangerous riding.

And some will argue that bad eggs will always be bad eggs. If they wanted to do the wrong thing, they'd just find new ways to do it.

But racing is changing. Victoria and South Australia have introduced dual rider-trainer licences and New South Wales participants are racing for more money than ever before.

The sport is under threat from the ever-growing presence of online betting on sports across the world.

This is a change I believe could help restore the casual punters' faith in the game.


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