Oliver farce straight out of Keystone Cops

Google the words "Keystone Cops", and the Wikipedia entry reads something like this: "The Keystone Cops were fictional incompetent policemen, featured in silent film comedies in the early 20th century".

How appropriate Victorian racing's lawmakers bungled the Damien Oliver saga on the 100-year anniversary of those oh-so-funny characters bursting to life.

If it wasn't so serious, Racing Victoria's feather-duster treatment of Oliver on the matter after a near see-nothing, say-nothing (at least not publicly) and do-nothing spring carnival should be immortalised through a short comedy.

In case you've been buried under a rock while the case has dragged on - not dissimilar to racing's officialdom, the ordinary punter would argue - Oliver's penalty for placing a $10,000 bet on a rival horse in a race in which he rode in 2010 was just 10 months.

That's a fact and Oliver's legal team suggested the champion jockey had never had a bet during his illustrious career until a "spur of the moment" decision to sow the seeds for a hefty wager on Miss Octopussy!

Oliver rode Group 1 winners Commanding Jewel (Thousand Guineas), Fiveandahalfstar (Victoria Derby) and Happy Trails (Emirates Stakes) during the recently-completed spring carnival.

At a mandatory 5 per cent collect, Oliver would have earned a minimum $90,000 from those three rides alone. Probably much more allowing for racing's notorious "sling".

From the time Fairfax Media published the allegations on October 14 to the day Oliver made his formal admission the Monday after the carnival ended, Oliver was never once asked: "Did you place the bet on Miss Octopussy?" Oliver's legal right to silence ensured that.

Crucially, though, he never publicly denied placing the bet either.

The only thing more staggering than Oliver's appearance on highlight reels of the 2012 carnival is his likely presence on next year's version. The 10-month sanction will have the champion jockey back in time to, no doubt, mount some of the plum rides for the 2013 circus.

While racing's powerbrokers laid low until a typically corporate response surfaced yesterday, Oliver's trial-by-new media said it all.

Many howled derision on social media sites, while racing forums lit up.

Their message was loud and clear.

As for the punters' next rebuke, silence might be the best weapon. Keeping their money in their pockets will hit racing chiefs right between the eyes.

Illustration: Matthew Davidson

Illustration: Matthew Davidson

Maybe then the Keystone Cops will then realise all their fumbling and bumbling isn't so funny after all.


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