Melbourne Cup jockey fined $8,000

A trip to Australia to ride in the Melbourne Cup went from bad to worse for Irish jockey John Egan today when a racing tribunal accused him of giving unreliable evidence and “reprehensible” behaviour.

Egan faced a charge of bringing racing into disrepute during a television interview on Saturday in which he called racing industry vets “a couple of tin-pot Hitlers”.

The comments came as a result of a series of veterinary examinations on Egan’s Cup mount Yellowstone which had suffered a hip injury that continues to jeopardise its chances of running in tomorrow’s race.

Egan pleaded guilty to the charge, but said in evidence to the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board he had not directed the remarks at anyone in particular.

The colourful jockey said he was the victim of immense pressure from the media, the public and officialdom as a result of the injury to his Cup horse.

“A lot of people were telling me how the horse should be trained,” Egan told the tribunal.

“I was frustrated at the public, the press … all saying how to train him, ride him, vet him.”

Yellowstone had just worked at Flemington and been passed fit by vets led by Racing Victoria Ltd’s chief veterinary officer Dr Paul O’Callaghan when Egan was interviewed.

In response to a question from the interviewer, Egan said: “I’m not going to let a couple of tin-pot Hitlers spoil my trip.”

At a subsequent inquiry on Saturday into his comments, Egan told stewards he had reached “boiling point” at the time of the interview.

“I think when you are under pressure you say things you regret,” Egan told the original inquiry.

“I just felt that the vet was against the horse running.

“He never asked me once what the horse was like at home.

“You don’t have to be a qualified vet to know the horse was sound.”

The jockey also read out an unreserved apology to Melbourne racing officials, in particular to Dr O’Callaghan.

Tribunal chairman, retired judge Russell Lewis, rejected Egan’s evidence that his Hitler comment was not aimed at the vets who were examining the horse to determine if it was fit to run in the Melbourne Cup.

“It is the Board’s view that you are an unsatisfactory witness,” Lewis said.

He said the remark was “squarely directed” at one or more of the racing vets and had been a reference to a petty official abusing his power.

Lewis fined Egan $8,000, telling him his conduct was “reprehensible”.

He said he had given little, if any, discount for Egan’s guilty plea which he viewed as a reflection of the inevitable.

By Mike Hedge