Disgraced champion jockey Damien Oliver will be eligible to ride trackwork next month and return to race riding in September...


Disgraced champion jockey Damien Oliver will be eligible to ride trackwork next month and return to race riding in September, reports The Age.

It says: It hardly seems like five minutes since the superstar rider, who dominated the last Melbourne spring on and off the track, was banned for eight months (with a further two months suspension) after he admitted betting on the favourite in a Moonee Valley race in which he rode one of its rivals.

As Oliver looks to get himself in shape and readies for a return to the big time, he should thank his lucky stars he fell foul of racing authorities in Australia, not somewhere else, where they take a tough stance against jockeys who transgress.

When the Oliver penalty was handed down at Racing Victoria last November - virtually the day after the carnival ended - there was a storm of protest on social media and from the commentariat that the 40-year-old, one of the finest riders this country has produced, had been treated with kid gloves and let off far too leniently.

That certainly looks to be an argument that could be made if reference to recent rulings overseas, particularly in Britain, are made.

Last month one of Britain's leading jockeys, Irishman Eddie Ahern, was outed for 10 years after he was found guilty of deliberately stopping a horse in a race at Lingfield Park. The 35-year-old's career has effectively been ended after he had prevented the horse from running on its merits and passed on information to a former English Premier League player, Neil Clements, who then laid the horse to lose. Just a couple of months earlier British officials had handed down an even stiffer penalty, a 15-year ban, to jockey Andrew Heffernan, who had moved to Australia in 2011. He, too, had been involved in a conspiracy with high-profile soccer players to stop a horse and win money by laying it.

The issue of jockeys betting has always been a thorny one. No one, except the most naive, has thought that it doesn't happen, and Racing Victoria and the Australian Jockeys' Association have moved swiftly in the wake of the Oliver case to stiffen penalties and increase rider education about the pitfalls of gambling and why it cannot be tolerated.

That jockeys need to have it spelt out in no uncertain terms is perhaps a reflection of the close-knit world in which they and the rest of the racing business operates.