John Keating has escaped the wrath of racing stewards “at this stage” from the Baby Boom affair.
John Keating has escaped the wrath of racing stewards “at this stage” from the Baby Boom affair. Bruce Thomas

No action against Keating yet

QUEENSLAND Racing stewards have declined to take any action ‘at this stage’ against Coffs Harbour jockey John Keating when releasing their findings on the so-called ‘Baby Boom affair’.

Keating and former licensed trainer John Nikolic have attended two hearings investigating the inglorious performance of Baby Boom which finished an unplaced favourite at the Sunshine Coast on January 3.

Stewards began their investigation after unusual betting patterns were discovered including wagers on the betting exchange Betfair predicting the horse would lose.

In the wake of the inquiry, professional Melbourne punter Neville Clements and fellow Betfair account holders Alessandro Alaimo and Kevin McFarland have been warned off all Queensland racecourses.

Former trainer Nikolic has also been issued with a show cause notice why he should not be warned off.

Part of the steward’s findings state: “... the rider of Baby Boom, jockey John Keating, co-operated with stewards throughout the inquiry and stewards believe there is insufficient evidence upon which to commence proceedings against him at this stage.”

But as far as jockey Keating is concerned, the story may still have some way to run after Australian Jockeys’ Association general manager Des O’Keefe issued a statement supporting the Coffs rider.

“John Keating is an innocent party caught up in this investigation and he is entitled to be absolutely livid that he has had to endure his reputation being tarnished by rumour, innuendo and media leaks throughout this inquiry,” the statement said.

“He has suffered major financial loss due to owners and trainers being understandably hesitant to give him rides until the matter reached some finality.

“The inquiry has taken its toll on him personally, not to mention the impact on his family.”

O’Keefe contacted The Coffs Coast Advocate this week to congratulate the newspaper on its even-handed coverage of the case.

However, he is not as sympathetic towards other sections of the press and revealed efforts will be made to establish the identity of a person or persons who allegedly provided sensitive details of the investigation to a News Limited columnist.

“The AJA fully understands and supports the need for exhaustive stewards’ investigations but extensive details of this investigation appeared in the media at a very early stage before a formal inquiry had commenced,” he said.

“The AJA intends to write to Queensland Racing chairman Bob Bentley requesting that an independent investigation be undertaken to identify those involved in the leaking of information to The Australian that resulted in an article first appearing in that paper on February 13.”

During his discussion, O’Keefe pulled no punches when explaining his disgust at the way Keating had been treated.

“I’ve known John for a long, long time in both a personal and professional manner and there’s no better little bloke around than he is,” he said.

“People were making false insinuations he got paid big dollars for pulling up a horse but if he’s suddenly become rich, I’d like to know where the money is.

“He’s working hard to make a living, battling around stables and lucky to have $100 in his pocket and they do this to him.”

Supporters of Keating have queried a number of apparent anomalies from the series of hearings.

They are concerned why stewards questioned Keating about Baby Boom being slow out of the gates when this is not mentioned in the original report on the race, whereas another horse, Monaire, is listed as being ‘slow to begin’.

Further, they are asking why another jockey who rode in the race and was reprimanded for allowing his mount to shift in, thereby causing Baby Boom to be steadied, was not questioned further in the circumstances of the interference and if this contributed to the poor run turned in by the horse.

O’Keefe agreed these matters are likely to be pursued if leave for an independent investigation is granted.

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