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Leading jockey faces possible two-year ban over alleged bet

Wed, Nov 16, 9:41am by Bren O'Brien

James McDonald, rated as one of the best jockeys in Australia, faces the possibility of a two-year ban from the sport after being charged by Racing NSW stewards over having an interest in a bet on a horse he rode.

McDonald, the stable jockey for Godolphin, who rode Melbourne Cup favourite Hartnell to third place in Australia’s greatest race just two weeks ago, was interviewed by stewards over his association with a punter and whether he befitted from a bet on Astern when it won in December last year.

The stewards then charged McDonald under AR 83 that states a jockey may be penalised: “If he bet, or has any interest in a bet on any race, or contingency relating to Thoroughbred racing involving a race in which he is riding.”

Under Racing Australia’s rules a breach of AR83 carries with it a mandatory two-year disqualification.

A meeting between stewards and police uncovered information which prompted the investigation.

“Racing NSW has a memorandum of understanding with a number of law enforcement agencies,” chief steward Marc Van Gestel told racing website G1X.com.au.

“It was at one of these meetings that information came to light of an association McDonald had with a punter.”

It is not alleged that McDonald placed the bet himself, but that he had an interest in the successful bet.

Astern, subsequently a Group 1 winner, won impressively on debut after being backed from $4.60 into $3.50.

McDonald could face further charges depending on how the investigation progresses.

Godolphin, the world’s largest racing operation, would not comment of the charges or McDonald’s future.

McDonald immediately stood himself down for all rides with immediate effect.

The Kiwi-born hoop 24-year-old has ridden 34 Group One winners in a stellar career to date. He was linked with a global deal to ride with Godolphin after a promising spell in the UK this year.

He won the 2014 Golden Slipper on Mossfun, while his recent Group 1 winners include the Turnbull Stakes, the Epsom Handicap and the Golden Rose.

Champion jockey Damien Oliver served a 10-month suspension in 2012-13 after an investigation revealed he had placed a bet on a rival horse during a race in 2010.

The laws have since tightened significantly, guaranteeing a lengthy suspension for any jockey found guilty of betting.


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