Damien Oliver set for one last Melbourne Cup Ride
Oliver announced that he had chosen to retire from racing in order to raise his family in Melbourne and at the age of 51 he has accomplished more than many could have hoped with 4 Caulfield Cups, Two Cox Plates and a Golden Slipper title.
In total Damien Oliver has claimed 128 Group One titles at the time of writing and is likely to retire as the most successful Australian Jockey of all time.
Originally from Perth Western Australia Oliver holds the record for the most wins during the Melbourne Cup Carnival with 85. He also holds the equal most wins in the Group One Kennedy Oaks alongside Bobby Lewis with 7 and also has the chance to equal another great record in 2023 before he retires.
The champion hoop currently has three Melbourne Cup wins to his name and if he was to win a fourth title in the race that stops a nation he’ll equal the record for most wins in the world’s richest handicap race.
Here, we take a look back at Oliver’s three Group One Melbourne Cup winners and look to see if he can claim another in 2023 to really round out his career on a high by equaling the record for most Melbourne Cup wins.
Melbourne Cup Win Number One - Doriemus 1995
Damien Oliver had already had a stellar career by all standards when he went to the 1995 Melbourne Cup. He had claimed two of his four career Caulfield Cup wins, a Victoria Derby win as well as the first of seven career wins in the VRC Oaks.
What he was truly after however, like all Australian jockeys, was a maiden win in the race that stops a nation, The Melbourne Cup and it seemed like he was about to have his best chance aboard Lee Freedman trained Doriemus.
Doriemus originally started out life racing in New Zealand where he won two from three starts. There was a buzz around the juvenile and he was transferred to the care of Lee Freedman in Australia with bigger ideas in mind.
However when he arrived on the shores of Australia, Doriemus would have only one more start as a three year old where he would fail to fire. Considered underdeveloped and immature Doriemus was spelled with the plan to bring him back as a four year old.
It wouldn’t be long into his four year old season that Doriemus and Oliver would team for the first time, riding him on his second start to victory in a 4yo handicap. From there the pair would then win Doriemus’ first black type title with victory in the Grey Smith Stakes at Listed level.
Oliver would only ride Doriemus two more times between that Black Type win when finishing third in the Sandown Cup followed by a second in the Thai International Stakes during the winter carnival.
Five other jockeys would ride Doriemus in his next starts and with Oliver seemingly getting the best out of the now five year old he was booked for the pairs biggest assignment of the campaign, the 1995 Caulfield Cup.
Despite not having won since November the previous year Doriemus was able to scrape enough points together to gain a start in the Caulfield Cup and carrying the weight of just 52kgs was able to reel in Kiwi runner Count Chivas and win the 2400m Group One.
Having won the Caulfield Cup, Oliver and Doriemus would head to the Melbourne Cup with a 2.5kg penalty. It wouldn’t matter however as Doriemus would demolish the 1995 Melbourne Cup field and hand Damien Oliver his first Melbourne Cup title.
Doriemus would go on to race well into his 8 year old season with Grant Hall becoming the regular jockey for the Melbourne Cup winner. He would win only two more races after winning the Melbourne Cup for Oliver and be retired as a 9 year old.
Melbourne Cup Win Number Two - Media Puzzle (2002)
In between winning his maiden Melbourne Cup and winning his second Oliver had continued to rack up Group One wins adding to both his Spring Carnival win column as well as picking up a number of G1 titles in Sydney and Brisbane through the Autumn and Winter.
His next big chance to win the Melbourne Cup would come aboard Irish trained stayer Media Puzzle. The five year old hadn’t had a career of note when racing in Ireland and the UK registering just three wins. However when arriving in Australia he really made his mark.
Given his record at the track so far Media Puzzle needed to qualify for the final Melbourne Cup field and was entered into the Group Three Geelong Cup by trainer Dermot Weld with the hopes of gaining a starting berth in the 3200m handicap on the first Tuesday of November.
With Oliver booked to ride the pair put on an emphatic performance that not only qualified them for a start in the 2002 Melbourne Cup but also went round at such a pace they claimed the track record for the Geelong Cup at the same time.
Oliver and Media Puzzle were all set to pair once again in the Melbourne Cup when Oliver was dealt one of the cruelest blows. A week before he was due to ride in the Melbourne Cup Oliver’s brother, Jason would be killed during a fall at Belmont in his home state of Western Australia.
During a race, the horse that Jason was riding would break both its front legs and throw Oliver’s older brother from the horse with his injuries proving too much to overcome.
Damien Oliver decided to ride on with Media Puzzle in one of the most emotionally charged Melbourne Cups and would take the Irish runner over the line in first place and immediately dedicate the win to his late brother.
Media Puzzle would return to Australia again the following year but would be unable to match the feats of 2002 when finishing down the track to Makybe Diva.
The irish raider would race on for another year before shattering a leg at the Ascot Gold Cup and have to be put to sleep ending a 26 career with seven wins including a Melbourne Cup.
Melbourne Cup Number Three - Fiorente 2013
Damien Oliver would go close another couple of times in the Melbourne Cup but he would be forced to wait another 11 years before riding his next winner in the 3200m Flemington handicap.
Fiorente would start out life racing for famed British trainer Sir Michael Stoute and be lightly raced in the early days of his career. The irish bred galloper would not race as a two year old and only have four starts as a three year old where he showed potential at both Group 2 and Group 3 level.
As a four year old Fiorente would record his biggest victory to date when winning the Group One Princess of Wales Stakes at Newmarket Racecourse at the start of the English summer. This win would put the world on notice and Fiorente was transferred to the stable of Gai Waterhouse with a Melbourne Cup challenge firmly on the agenda.
After a quick detour to France and a G2 race at Longchamp, Fiorente would arrive on Australian shores and straight into the 2012 Melbourne Cup field. With jockey James McDonald in the saddle Fiorente would finish second to Green Moon on his Australian debut.
With a light Autumn campaign featuring just one start in the Group One All Aged Stakes, finishing third to All Too Hard, Waterhouse would spell Fiorente with bigger 2013 Spring targets in Mind.
In the Spring of 2013 Fiorente would be quick into his stride winning the Group 2 Dato Chin Nam Stakes at Moonee Valley before following that up with a third place finish behind Shamus Award in the 2013 Cox Plate when partnering with jockeys Nash Rawiller and Blake Shinn.
Oliver would pick up the ride of Fiorente in the 2013 Melbourne Cup and when going off as a $6 favourite Damien Oliver would steer the UK import perfectly round the Flemington track to win his third Melbourne Cup and give Gai Waterhouse her first ever win in the race.
Fiorente would carry on to pair with Oliver for the following four starts of his career. He would return in the Autumn where the pair would claim the Group 2 Peter Young followed by the Group One Australian Cup, once again at Flemington.
The UK import and Oliver would have a further two starts together before an ongoing tendon injury would force Fiorente into retirement until his passing as a 15 year old in 2023.
Melbourne Cup Win Number 4?
At the moment Oliver isn’t booked to ride a Melbourne Cup runner in 2023 but with him set to headline the Melbourne Cup Carnival this year it’d be hard to write off a fairytale ending that delivers him a record equalling fourth Melbourne Cup.
Oliver has been in the saddle for 35 years of racing and is set to retire as one of the most decorated jockeys of all time. Yes it’d be the perfect ending to watch him win another Melbourne Cup but he has already added a lifetime of memories to thousands of racing fans.
So if nothing else, there’ll be packed grandstands on the first Tuesday of November looking for the man affectionately called ‘Olly’ to cheer him on during his final act!!