John Keating steers home a winner at Coffs Harbour.
John Keating steers home a winner at Coffs Harbour. Bruce Thomas

Local jockey under investigation

WHEN Coffs Harbour jockey John Keating headed off to Caloundra races on January 3 he says he hadn’t a care in the world.

“I’d just updated the car so I set the cruise control for the run up to the Sunshine Coast,” he said.

“I had one pretty good ride which was considered the likely winner and I thought to myself ‘get the job done then come straight home’, never giving a thought to what’s gone on since then.”

Keating rode a horse named Baby Boom for trainer John Nikolic which, despite starting $1.80 favourite, battled always in running before winding up in fourth place.

“The horse was under pressure a long way from the finish and I had to keep scrubbing him along,” Keating recalled.

“I’d already ridden him in a barrier trial at the Gold Coast before Christmas and he went great that day but between then and the trip to Caloundra, he went off the boil.”

Immediately following that race, Queensland Racing stewards opened an inquiry after they established there was ‘a large volume of money on the horse to lose’ placed with betting exchanges.

On January 9, Keating ventured to Ipswich to again partner Baby Boom.

“He went even worse and finished right back in the pack,” he revealed.

“The people who owned him before, sold him on after one run in Sydney so, in hindsight, there may be something wrong that’s only now coming out.”

And there the matter may have rested until QR stewards completed their investigations but in a metropolitan newspaper report last weekend, Keating’s name was dragged into another inquiry involving rival jockey Danny Nikolic, brother of Baby Boom’s trainer John Nikolic.

Racing Victoria (RVL) stewards are seeking information on nine rides by Danny Nikolic and since the news broke, relationships between commission agents, professional punters and the controversial subject of betting exchanges have intermingled.

The innuendos have reverberated through the racing industry and emerged at the Grafton meeting last Saturday where Keating was riding.

The jockey was taken aback at the reaction to the story and is irate his name and reputation are being sullied.

Of particular concern is a belief the unfair accusations have cost him rides and threaten his livelihood.

“Where is the evidence of wrongdoing, who has the proof I committed some offence?” he fumed.

“The situation is I rode a horse in good faith and it wasn’t good enough to win the race I was so sure we were going to win.

“And because of faceless people who I’ve never met and have no relation to – people who backed the horse to lose on a Betfair or whoever – my name has been dragged through the dirt.”

Since taking up the post of stable rider for Jim Jarvis, Keating has worked hard to establish himself locally, riding 14 winners from 107 mounts in the current season.

His riding skills have been favourably likened to home grown champion Glen Colless, punters swear by his ability to get the best out of horse in a tight finish and all the leading local stables have no fear of legging him aboard their best chances.

“When this is over and I’ve been cleared – and I have no doubt that will happen – we’ll all look back and have a laugh,” Keating said.

“But right now, it’s no laughing matter at all.

“The blokes I work with every day know I’ve done nothing wrong but in this game you don’t only rely on your ability, 90 per cent is about good public relations.

“I just want my reputation cleared so I can get on with doing my best for myself and those I work with.”

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