Ascot Racecourse was rocking on Saturday afternoon

By:
Scott Mcglynn
17/12/2023
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Ascot Racecourse was rocking on Saturday afternoon

It was a successful final afternoon in the saddle for Damien Oliver at Ascot on Saturday - winning on his last three rides.

News Insights

  • First winner came on No Imposition in 1988
  • Over 2,800 winners, including 129 at Group 1 level
  • Three Melbourne Cup wins to his credit
  • Three winners on his final day in the saddle

Saturday would always be an emotional day as Damien Oliver hung up his saddle for the final time. A long and storied career has come to a close, and the script was followed to a tee with Ollie saluting on his last three rides to bring down the curtain.

We have written plenty on Damien Oliver since he announced his retirement in August, but we could not let his final day in the saddle go by without another piece. That is especially so, given that he managed to salute on his last three rides.

Ollie would become one of the best-known Australian jockeys to a European audience thanks to his win on Media Puzzle in the 2002 Melbourne Cup. Trained in Ireland by Dermot Weld, the victory came just days after the death of his brother Jason, producing one of the most emotional moments ever seen on a track.

Oliver has always had a knack for getting the best out of his equine partners. Saturday was proof once more of that, as despite having a few at shorter prices beaten earlier on the card, Ollie won on his last three mounts to redress the balance.

Devine Belief

There could hardly have been a more appropriately named winner on Ollie’s final day than this one. He always had the mare nicely positioned just off the speed, which proved the key. She was a little keen in the early stages but settled down in third, and once asked for her effort, there would only ever be one winner.

Those who filled out the frame behind her came from further back, so it was a perfectly judged ride, winning by almost three lengths for trainer David Harrison. It was an excellent day for the owners of Devine Belief as their colours were also carried to victory twice at Esperance by Hot Puddin and Bondi Bubbles. 

Magnificent Andy

This was a lovely full-circle moment for Ollie and the sport and proof that these scripts can sometimes come to fruition even when they seem far-fetched. When Ollie rode his first winner in 1988 on No Imposition, the second that day was ridden by Stephen Miller, the trainer of Magnificent Andy!

This was a more patient ride than the one on Devine Belief, taking his time before timing his challenge to perfection, getting his charge in front by a quarter of a length on the line. It was vintage Oliver, a great clock in his head and no hint of panic, just a patient ride filling the horse with confidence to do the job.

Munhamek

Ollie’s final ride on the day was in the Damien Oliver Gold Rush Stakes with his mount Munhamek heavily backed to close things out with the cherry on top of an already sweet cake on the afternoon.

Held up a long way back in the early stages, Oliver took the brave man’s route right up the inside around the bend before waiting for a gap to open late as other runners started to lean on his mount.

Once the gap did appear, Munhamek didn’t disappoint, quickening up smartly to give the crowd what they came for - a winner for Oliver on his final ride before retirement. Ollie standing up in the saddle to salute them as he passed the post will become an iconic image for many years to come.

So, that’s it. The track will seem a different place without Damien Oliver there, but he has been able to bow out on his own terms, which is not a blessing given to every jockey. We look forward to his next chapter and wish him all the best for the future.