There will be no grand celebration for Damien Oliver’s 100th group 1 victory, the moment has passed, but the pursuit of records will continue on Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente at Flemington on Saturday.
The addition of an Auckland Cup win on Zavite, not previously counted in Oliver’s group 1 tally, means that Fiorente holds the special place of being the champion jockey’s 100th win at the top level, in last year’s Melbourne Cup.
”It’s kind of good in a way because I really got to enjoy winning the Melbourne Cup without the 100 taking over,” Oliver said. ”That race means so much but to know I got my 100th group 1 in it is great.”
Oliver is still at the top of his game and in demand again after 10 months on the sidelines because of a ban for betting. ”I love riding winners and every one is special,” he said. ”It is huge to get 100 group 1s because not many have done it. George Moore, Roy Higgins and Jim Cassidy, so it is a pretty special number, but I still have some left in me. I guess I’m chasing Roy and George Moore now, and their records.”
Oliver has ridden 96 group 1 winners in Australia, starting with Submariner in the 1990 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes, and four in New Zealand.
Cassidy and Oliver share the mark of 100, while Higgins has 109. Moore leads the way on 119 in Australia, but his tally would be far greater if his European triumphs were taken into account.
Oliver has been at the top of the riding ranks for more than 20 years but remarkably has never won an Australian Cup. On Saturday, he will ride Fiorente in the weight-for-age feature. He has had seven placings, including seconds on Princess Coup, Winning Belle and Northerly.
Fiorente will attempt to join Makybe Diva and Let’s Elope to win the Australian Cup only months after winning the Melbourne Cup. Oliver, who rode Doriemus and Media Puzzle to win Melbourne Cups, believes the Gai Waterhouse-trained stayer will show his strength over the shorter trip of 2000m.
”He is different to my other Cup winners, but the race is different now as well,” he said. ”He has a really good sprint that makes him very good at weight-for-age, and I actually think his best trip will be 2000m to 2400m. He is a very strong 2000m horse and Flemington, of course, suits him.”
Fiorente is an even-money favourite for the group 1. The six-year-old will be out to turn the tables on the three-year-old Shamus Award, which had the better of him in the Cox Plate.
”I didn’t ride him that day [because of a careless riding suspension] but I think Fiorente being such a big horse, Flemington is going to be in his favour, and on the weight-for-age scale we are a bit closer in the weights,” Oliver said.
Oliver also rides the Danny O’Brien-trained Shamexpress, which will shoot for back-to-back Newmarket Handicap wins at Flemington.
”They are both very good chances and it is an exciting day to go to the races,” Oliver said. ”Shamexpress was very good in the Lightning [Stakes beating all but Snitzerland] and he loves the straight course. It is a tough race with a stack of chances and there is no real unknown factor because most of the horses in the market have strong straight form. He is probably a bit better of 1200m than 1000m and should get the right run.”