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Nikolic Case "May Lead To Rule Changes"
Jockey Danny Nikolic's barrister Richard Smith told Victoria's Racing Appeals & Disciplinary Board yesterday (during his summing-up at the controversial hearing) that the case "may lead to an expanding of the rules governing what jockeys can & can't say about their mounts prior to a race," reported The Herald-Sun. Smith said it would be "inappropriate" for the RADB to "draw a line regarding where a jockey's comments became prejudicial to the interests of racing", noting: "If you were only permitted to answer questions about a horse's chances in the positive as opposed to honest responses, it would be a very dangerous or unfair thing to punish the jockey for answering the question honestly. It may be that the Board is of the opinion when the jockey is asked about how his horse is going to go in the 5th, that the jockey has to say: What's your occupation? Are you a professional punter? Do you have a Betfair account? Is it your habit to lay horses? Maybe that's the system. We think that would be ridiculous. We say if a jockey has communicated to an associate that his mount is not trying today, that would undoubtedly constitute improper conduct & conduct prejudicial to the interests of racing." RADB chairman Judge Russell Lewis noted: "If an honest answer is given & the jockey knows someone is going to act upon it, that's where the jockey gets into trouble. Jockeys give opinions on TVN about their mounts day-in day-out & the stewards allow it to happen." Smith concluded: "I can't stress enough in this case that there is not a whiff of evidence that Mr Nikolic gave information that his mounts couldn't win or told people to go out & lay them, which has been put forward as the stewards' case." Smith emphasised the stewards' case "centred around Nikolic giving information to associates which led them to lay a number of his mounts with confidence", but they had "danced around" the more sinister connotation that "this horse isn't trying today" even though Nikolic had not been charged over any of his rides examined during the course of the stewards' investigation. Smith declared: "There is no such rule that says you can't communicate with people." The RADB will announce its decision next Tuesday.