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Damien Oliver back at track work
By Mike Hedge
06:05 AEST Tue Jul 16 2013

His skull cap was decorated with a bright, shiny cover as were his indiscretions.

Damien Oliver, dual Melbourne Cup winner, Hall of Fame jockey and one-time punter returned to riding after an enforced eight-month absence on Monday, bouncing back as though he'd hardly been away.

One of the first horses he rode at Leon Corstens' training complex was the filly Commanding Jewel on whom he won just before the racing world closed in on him last spring.

"It's great to be back on a horse, and great to be back on a really nice one," Oliver said after partnering the filly in an exercise gallop.

But no-one really wanted to know about nice fillies and how difficult it had been to wake up on his first day back at work.

They wanted to know how he felt about betraying an industry that had made him a multi-millionaire, about drawing an innocent friend into his notorious betting scandal and what he was going to do about repairing the damage.

Oliver pleaded guilty in November last year to betting $10,000 on a horse in a race in which he was riding at Moonee Valley in October, 2010.

The horse he bet on, the favourite, won the race. His horse, the second favourite, finished sixth.

Everyone who backed his horse lost their money. But he won $11,000 on the winner - and he got caught.

Oliver, a man whose career was celebrated in a movie, agreed on Monday he had breached the trust of everyone in racing.

"In my experience, the overwhelming majority of people in racing are honest and hardworking," Oliver said.

"It's up to me to prove that I can be accepted into that industry again."

Oliver also repeated his original evidence to the stewards that the bet at Moonee Valley that night was the only one he'd ever had and that he'd never deliberately tried to lose a race.

"When I've ridden I've always ridden to get the best possible result for the owners and trainers and the people that ask me to to do the job," he said.

"I'll continue to do that ... the only way is to get back and ride winners."

When pressed on the common suspicion in racing that jockeys frequently bet, Oliver agreed it was a perception that would persist thanks to him.

"I'm sure that's a question that's going to be asked," he said.

"But I'm just trying to look forward, not back, and put it all behind me."

Oliver also said he'd been "up-front and co-operated fully" with investigators, despite initially refusing to talk to them for several weeks after being asked to give evidence and then declining to be involved in a later investigation of his case.

During the eight months he's had to reflect on the affair, Oliver said he'd concluded that his reputation had "copped a bit of a whack".

"But it's up to me to try and win back that respect by doing my best and working hard," he said.

It was suggested he might consider reimbursing the $10,000 trainer Robert Smerdon was fined for unwittingly handling the proceeds of the illicit bet.

But he drew the line at that.

"Robert had virtually nothing to do with this at all. I certainly feel sorry for him," he said.

"I might be riding a lot of free trackwork ... hopefully I can repay him with some winners."

Oliver must now serve out a two month suspension that was part of his sentence and can begin re-establishing trust at the Moonee Valley race meeting on September 14.


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