Rule changes looms to limit betting of jockeys
An imminent change in the rules will prevent jockeys from betting on days when they are riding - but officials have again stopped of imposing a blanket ban.
New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing came under fire yesterday when it was revealed jockey David Walker had been charged with taking a head-to-head bet and pulling up his own mount to ensure he won.
Video evidence of the August 16 race at Awapuni clearly showed Walker riding Watch Your Man very quietly while the horse he punted more than $500 on, St Random, was under a punishing ride just a couple of lengths in front of him.
For years the Racing Integrity Unit had urged the controlling body to ban jockeys from betting - concerned at the ramifications of any scandal in an industry so dependent on betting, both here and overseas.
But while New Zealand is about the only racing jurisdiction in the world where jockeys are allowed to bet, until this year NZTR had failed to act.
Chief executive Greg Purcell said yesterday while it always had the power to change the rules, a process of consultation had to be followed and, until now, the New Zealand Jockeys' Association had opposed a ban.
''But the jockeys' association has come around to supporting the ban and we're in the final process of bringing it in.''
When asked how long it would take, given draft rule changes went out to industry bodies in April, and the deadline for comments was May 2, Purcell said the change was ''imminent''.
''It's been through the consultative process and has received the approval of the Judicial Control Authority.''
Under the new rule, jockeys will be banned from betting on any raceday when they are riding. If they are competing at Ellerslie, it will still be illegal to bet on a meeting at, say, Gore.
''We're not concerned about a jumps jockey who rides only seasonally, or someone who is not riding or injured in bed, they can't influence the outcome of a race.''
Jockeys would still be allowed to be on sporting events, other codes like harness or greyhounds, or on Australian races, because it would not be fair to impose restrictions on riders betting on events outside of thoroughbred's rules.
Purcell said NZTR was obviously very disappointed and it had taken the unprecedented step of suspending Walker's licence immediately, effective from noon yesterday.
The accusations were serious and at the fabric of the sport, he said.
But until Walker was found guilty or innocent at a hearing, he would still be allowed to ride trackwork and at trials.
''The reality is that where's there's money involved ... we just need the appropriate risk management in place. And that's the role of the RIU, to uphold the integrity of the sport.''
Purcell said he had every confidence in the RIU which began an investigation into Walker's ride immediately after the race.