Racing: Oliver lets riding do talking

By Mike Dillon

Melbourne jockey Damien Oliver rarely makes extravagant salutes after winning notable races. Here he enjoys Fiveandahalfstar's victory in the Victoria derby last Saturday.Picture / Getty Images
Melbourne jockey Damien Oliver rarely makes extravagant salutes after winning notable races. Here he enjoys Fiveandahalfstar's victory in the Victoria derby last Saturday.Picture / Getty Images

Melbourne jockey Damien Oliver is responsible for creating history's most poignant horse racing image.

It was the kiss he blew to his deceased brother Jason as he crossed the finish in front on Media Puzzle in the 2002 Melbourne Cup.

Jason Oliver had died less than a week earlier of massive head injuries after falling from a horse in his home town of Perth.

Oddly though, that kiss and the exaggerated salute Oliver threw winning Saturday's A$1.5 million Victoria Derby on Fiveandahalfstar are rare exceptions for racing's quiet man.

Oliver is very private. Intense to a fault. If he is quiet with his feet on the ground he is positively wooden when the job has to be done on horseback. Which has been useful for the West Australian since he moved east to be Lee Freedman's apprentice in the 1980s.

The demons have been out there to rattle Oliver's cage in recent years, but none have succeeded.

Two years ago Oliver hit the headlines as the centre of a police investigation over criminal matters. Despite headlines that might have been saved for the outbreak of WW111, on the racetrack it was business as usual for Oliver.

Only weeks ago, Oliver was filling the front pages again when he was alleged to have placed a $10,000 bet on Miss Octopussy in a race at Moonee Valley in 2010. Miss Octopussy won and Oliver rode another horse in the race.

The judicial inquiry into that matter has been adjourned, presumably until the completion of the spring carnival.

If found guilty, Oliver as we know him may be a person of the past. The jockey famous for a kiss will probably be kissed off.

The reaction to those claims was as brutal as it was instant. Former Crown Casino owner Lloyd Williams sacked Oliver from Green Moon in the Cox Plate and another topline owner Terry Henderson dumped him from English raider My Quest For Peace for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

Oliver had won the Melbourne Cup for Henderson on Doriemus.

There was no shrinkage in Oliver, he came out a few days later, composed as usual, and won the 1000 Guineas on Commanding Jewel.

On Saturday, he won the Derby with a peach of a ride and goes into today's Melbourne Cup aboard the favourite Americain, replacing Frenchman Gerald Mosse following a controversial Caulfield Cup ride.

If you sway away from Americain believing Oliver might be distracted, you will be doing yourself a disservice.

When he takes Americain down the rose-lined path on to the Flemington track late this afternoon there will be only the back of the French stayer's head, one of the world's great racing strips and a bunch of horses.

Nothing else will be in his vision.

Nothing else will matter.

- NZ Herald

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