Top Australian jockey banned for breaching COVID-19 rules

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Star Australian jockey Jamie Kah and three other riders have banned from racing for three months after breaching Victoria state’s tough COVID-19 restrictions by gathering at a rented apartment during lockdown.

Kah, Ben Melham, Ethan Brown and apprentice jockey Celine Gaudray were fined 5,452 Australian dollars ($3,952) and on Friday had their racing licenses suspended until Nov. 26.

Kah last month became the first jockey to register 100 wins in Victorian metropolitan races in a season. She rode Prince of Arran to third place at last year’s Melbourne Cup, but will not get to ride in the southern hemisphere’s premier horse race this season after being ruled out of the entire Spring Racing Carnival.

The jockeys were among six people charged after police were called to a property outside of Melbourne on Wednesday night following a noise complaint.

The jockeys pleaded guilty at a horse racing tribunal hearing to charges of “failure or refusal to comply with an order, direction, or requirement of the stewards or an official”.

Kah posted a statement on Twitter to apologize for breaking the state’s pandemic restrictions, which include a night curfew from 9 p.m. and a ban on people traveling more than 5 kilometers (3 miles) from their homes.

“I am deeply embarrassed and disappointed with myself,” Kah said. “There is no excuse for what I have done and I have let myself down, my family and friends, the racing industry and all Victorians who are doing the right thing in this lockdown.”

The jockeys will need to return negative COVID-19 tests and wait two weeks before being allowed to resume trackwork.

Racing Victoria said more than 750 race meetings have been held safely since the pandemic began last year and it was crucial for the entire industry to abide by restrictions.

“The penalty must also be seen to publicly address the seriousness of the offending and make clear that compliance with the COVID-19 protocols is non-negotiable,” the state’s horse racing authority said in a statement.

The Melbourne Cup, which has regularly attracted crowds of more than 100,000 at Flemington Racecourse, was held without spectators last November.