Retiring great Damien Oliver is relying on a frisky Frenchman to give him a special send-off with a record-equalling fourth Melbourne Cup victory.
Oliver will be on board Alenquer next Tuesday during his final Victorian spring carnival at Flemington.
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The 51-year-old rode the French-bred gelding in Friday’s Moonee Valley Gold Cup and had little luck, finishing ninth behind Cleveland.
But Oliver believes Alenquer can help him capture one last Cup, following his wins on Doriemus (1995), Media Puzzle (2002) and Fiorente (2013).
In his 32nd ride in the $8 million race, a victory would put him equal with the record of four wins by a jockey, shared by Bobbie Lewis and Harry White.
Damien Oliver is chasing a record-equalling fourth Melbourne Cup victory. Credit: Getty Images
Speaking at the Melbourne Cup carnival launch at Flemington on Monday, Oliver said Alenquer was finding form a year after being imported from Europe to the Flemington stables of Mike Moronery, who trained 2000 Cup winner Brew.
“He’s a French horse so he’s a bit quirky but he’s a Group 1 winner in Europe so he’s got the ability,” said Oliver, who will retire after Perth’s summer carnival.
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“I think Mike Moroney is starting to unlock the key to that temperament, so he’s hitting form at the right time, so we think he’s going to run a good race for us.”
Though still a force in the saddle, Oliver said he had no regrets about calling time on a career that has yielded a record 129 Group 1 wins.
“I’m pretty happy this is my last one,” he said. “I’ve had a great career and I’m really looking forward to the next week and hopefully I can go out as a winner.”
Oliver’s last Melbourne Cup triumph came 10 years ago aboard the Gai Waterhouse-trained Fiorente.
Waterhouse, now preparing Cup hopefuls Serpentine and Military Mission with co-trainer Adrian Bott, joked there was no room for sentimentality.
“No, I’d punch him,” she said when asked how she would feel should Oliver beat her horses to win the race.
More seriously, the training great said it had been “fantastic” to team with Oliver to achieve her first and only Melbourne Cup victory so far.
“Fiorente was a beautiful horse who took us on a ride that culminated here on Cup day when Damien was able to lift him over the line, and it was very special,” she said.
Owned by seven-time winner Lloyd Williams, English Derby winner Serpentine – who was last in the the Cup in 2022 – moved into the field for this year’s edition after Monday’s round of declarations.
“He’s a pretty special horse – he came last year and ran in the Cup ingloriously but I think we’ve resurrected him,” Waterhouse said. “I feel very quietly confident.”
Waterhouse said Military Mission may run in the Archer Stakes on Derby Day to secure entry to Australia’s greatest race.
The gelding won Caulfield’s Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) last start after running fourth in Randwick’s Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m).
“He’s certainly the most exciting lightly-raced horse and his run in the Metropolitan was enormous and he came from almost second-last,” Waterhouse said.
“Sometimes you see a horse and just know it’s coming right, and he’s exactly like that.”
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