Top jockey Jamie Kah has expressed her remorse for COVID breaches that have seen her and three other riders fined and banned from racing for three months.
Kah, Ethan Brown, Ben Melham and apprentice jockey Celine Gaudray breached Victoria’s lockdown restrictions by staying at a Mornington Airbnb with two others on Wednesday night.
All six people have been fined $5452 each for breaching the directions of the chief health officer, after police were called to the Tallis Drive property due to a noise complaint just before midnight.
The four riders also pleaded guilty to charges laid by racing stewards, of “failure or refusal to comply with an order, direction, or requirement of the stewards or an official”.
Stewards suspended the racing licences of all four jockeys for three months, meaning none of them can ride in the 2021 Spring Racing Carnival.
In a statement on twitter, Kah said she wanted to apologise for her behaviour.
“I am deeply embarrassed and disappointed with myself,” she 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.”
“I deserve the penalty handed down by the stewards and will take the time to reflect on my actions and its impact on so many people.”
A two-day racing tribunal inquiry into the incident concluded on Friday.
The suspension began at midnight on August, 26 and expires at midnight on November 25.
The stewards’ report into the incident said stewards took into account the riders’ guilty pleas and expressions of remorse, but the penalties had to be sufficient to deter others from COVID breaches.
Any appeal against the ruling must be lodged within three days.
The jockeys have been banned from race meetings and licensed venues for at least two weeks, and until cleared by stewards and negative COVID-19 tests have been provided.
But they will be allowed to do trackwork, jump-outs and official trials after September 9.
Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson on Thursday issued a statement condemning the riders’ actions.
“These individuals could have put at risk the very continuance of our sport and also blatantly disregarded the broader community implications through their selfish and thoughtless actions,” he said.
He cautioned the breaches did not reflect the rest of the industry, which was working hard to comply with the rules.
“To see all of that potentially thrown away by the reckless behaviour of a small few is incredibly disappointing and far from what is expected of our industry participants,” he said.
He also warned of the “critical need” for the industry to follow COVID-19 directives ahead of the Spring Racing Carnival.
Racing Victoria says more than 750 race meetings have been held safely since the pandemic began.
Last year’s Melbourne Cup carnival was held without spectators at the usually packed Flemington Racecourse.