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Innocent until proven guilty

 Nov 9 2012

It used to be said – "everyone is equal on the turf or under it".

In some respects it still applies, unless you are a jockey as was declared stridently by the vitriol directed at Damien Oliver this week. If he was a politician or, involved in any other field of endeavour, he would be protected by plaintive proclamations about the presumption of innocence.

As yet Oliver hasn't been charged with any racing offence. There has only been an accusation that, some two years ago, he had a $10,000 bet on a horse in a race in which he was riding.

There has been no suggestion that he did anything wrong on the horse he was riding but a jockey betting is against the rules of racing. There are many more venal sins in racing but, as they say, rules are rules.

There were frantic, even frenzied cries this week that Oliver should have been stood down from riding in the Melbourne Cup. Really!
Doesn't that fly dangerously in the face of the stipulation - innocent until proved guilty?

The Melbourne Cup is the most remarkable phenomenon on Australia's sporting calendar – ‘the race that stops the nation' - but it does spawn one-day wonders in and out of the media.

Emerging opinions are like the human mouth – everyone's got one. Some, though, are bigger than others. Was there a touch of irony when the Melbourne Cup jockeys were introduced at Flemington on Tuesday and Oliver was regaled with the loudest cheer? If every jockey was stood down on the basis of an allegation there would be at some stage a lamentable lack of suitable riders.

Well, another Melbourne Cup has been run and won and we are all much wiser but not necessarily richer. Three jockeys were suspended for having caused interference in the 24-horse field but I hope that doesn't start a bleat about reducing the number of runners. It's bad enough that the Caulfield Cup has been whittled back to a "safety limit" of 18. But the big stretches of Flemington comfortably can accommodate 24 runners. Old timers will recall the good old days in the 1950s where some fields contained up to 32 runners.

The curtain call of the Melbourne Cup carnival is the $1million Patinack Farm Classic and it has star billing. Queenslander, Buffering, is entitled to be forgiven for his defeat in the Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley because he won successive Group Two races beforehand. It also is worth remembering that he only was beaten narrowly by Hay List in the Newmarket Handicap earlier this year.

Western Australia galloper, Playing God, didn't have a particularly happy campaign in Melbourne during the autumn but he is worth another chance in the spring.
Having had two runs since a spell in the west, he should be primed for a return to form. At his latest start Playing God was a handy third in a 1200 metre sprint at Ascot.
Having won three times up to 1800 metres he should be ready for a distance like this at his third run back.

The Group Three Queen Elizabeth Stakes has assumed the role of a consolation for horses that didn't make the cut for this year's Emirates Melbourne Cup. Moudre, Lost in the Moment, Shahwardi, Ironstein and Vatuvei all failed to survive the ballot and a win here would at least ease some of the pain. The Peter Moody-trained Vatuvei has struck his best form which was illustrated by his strong win in the 2500 metre Moonee Valley Cup on October 27. The 2600 metres at Flemington looks ideal. Puissance de Lune is the main danger coming off his win in the Bendigo Cup when he performed with a lot of authority.

By Rod Gallegos

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