Two top Adelaide jockeys and the Melbourne Cup-winning Kavanagh stable are at the centre of an investigation into an Australia-wide betting plunge.
Current premiership jockey Chad Lever and triple premiership rider Paul Gatt were among six people spoken to by stewards.
Sam Kavanagh, son of trainer Mark Kavanagh who won last year’s Melbourne Cup with Shocking, has been interviewed by SA chief steward Graham Loch over the alleged fixing of Saturday’s Adelaide jockeys’ challenge at Morphetville Park.
Kavanagh, who manages his father’s Adelaide stables, said he would fully co-operate with the investigations, which centre on claims punters had prior knowledge that Lever would pull out of racing on Saturday with Gatt taking his more fancied rides.
“I’ve already gone through some of my phone calls on the day with Mr Loch and I’m happy to talk to stewards at any time,” Kavanagh said.
TABs and corporate bookmakers were forced to suspend betting on the jockeys’ challenge when an avalanche of large bets were placed on underdog Gatt.
The sting was only partially successful, but several bookmakers are understood to have had hefty payouts.
The jockeys’ challenge is a bet type offering punters the chance to pick who will be the leading rider at a particular meeting – jockeys earning points for race placings.
Lever was a favourite on Saturday to win the challenge, with several potential winning rides including two for the Kavanagh camp.
Kavanagh’s promising two-year-old Tropic Thunder and classy grey gelding Outlandish Lad were regarded as top hopes by most punters.
Stewards were informed by a corporate bookmaker about 11am on Saturday that Gatt had been sensationally backed from $21 into $2.40 to win the challenge.
Bets are believed to have been placed before official notification that Lever would not be riding at the meeting due to illness and Gatt would replace Lever on the two fancied horses trained by Mark Kavanagh. He subsequently won a race and ran second in another.
“I was alerted by a wagering operator interstate that there was significant interest in Paul Gatt in one of the jockey challenges,” Loch said.
“There was a clear inference in the call that people had prior knowledge of the change in riding arrangements.”
TattsBet spokesman Christian Sawyer said his organisation was “lucky not to have been stung more”.
“We only had Gatt at $14 from the start as we thought $21 was far too high a price,” Sawyer said.
TattsBet immediately suspended betting on the jockeys’ challenge and when it re-opened the market Gatt was the strong $2.40 favourite.
A win, a second placing and two thirds gave Gatt seven points, a triple dead-heat with apprentices Amy Herrmann and Claudia Lions.