Ben Melham, a Group 1 jockey, has pleaded guilty to four charges involving betting offences and will now be banned for five months. This means that he will be sidelined for both the Melbourne and Sydney carnivals in the autumn of 2021.
Avoided a Stricter Punishment
The jockey heard the decision of the Victorian Racing Tribunal (VRT) on Wednesday after an intense three-day hearing on the matter.
Melham, who is the winner of the Golden Slipper avoided the worst punishment, the mandatory two-year ban because two of the charges that were about him having bet on races that he was riding in were withdrawn on the first day of the inquiry.
Also, some details that were crucial to one of the charges turned out to have been misinterpreted. This caused quite a confusion on the opening day of proceedings and forced the panel to stand down only minutes after the inquiry had started.
That said, the star jockey still pleaded guilty to four of the charges. Three of these were for betting violations and one was for giving false evidence.
The fine that he got from the VRT was a five-month ban, despite the Racing Victoria stewards pushing for an eight-month suspension.
Bet $17,600 on Races Using His Partner’s Account
Melham was charged for making illegal betting transactions in the period between March 27 and May 19, 2019. During this time the Group 1 jockey placed bets worth $17,600 and used his partner’s betting account to do so.
These charges were enough for the tribunal to issue two one-month disqualifications for charges 1 and 3 and a three-month suspension for charge 2. Melham was issued a further two-month suspension for charge number 4 for giving false evidence.
The total length of the ban comes to five months because the two one-month sentences will be served concurrently with the three-month suspension for charge 2.
The Misinterpreted Charge
And it was charge 2 that caused the most confusion during the inquiry. The charge concerned a single day, March 30, 2019, in which Melham apparently placed $14,600 worth of bets on various Australian races.
Victoria Racing stewards claimed that before Melham went on his betting spree, he deposited $3000 into his partner’s betting account.
However, it later panned out that Melham didn’t spend the day at the hotel were the deposit occurred and there was no evidence that he placed any bets at the pub.
VRT Chairman John Bowman said that when the tribunal was making its decision, it took into account several factors that reduced the ban for Melham.
They looked favourably on the Group 1 jockey because of his overall character, the guilty pleas he made, as well as the fact that he was injured when the bets were made.