Damien Oliver to hang up the boots after one last Perth Carnival

Scott Mcglynn
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Damien Oliver to hang up the boots after one last Perth Carnival

The legendary rider of more than 125 Group 1 winners will call it a day after the Perth Summer Carnival.

News Insights

  • Ridden over 3,000 winners
  • Rode his first winner in 1988
  • Hall of Fame inductee
  • He will finish where it started, in Perth

December 2023, after the Perth Summer Carnival, Damien Oliver will retire from the saddle. One of the finest jockeys in the past 35 years, it will be fitting that he returns to his birthplace to close out his career where it started.

Born into a racing family in Perth in 1972, his dad passed away following a race fall in 1975, but it was not enough to deter Oliver from wanting to become a jockey and follow in his dad's footprints. 

No Imposition kicks things off

The first ride of his career was No Imposition, saluting for the first time in 1988 on a horse called Mr Gudbad, which came at Bunbury. Oliver landed his first winner at Group 1 level in the 1990 Sir Rupert Clark Stakes on Submariner. An 18-year-old apprentice at that point, it was a quick rise to the sport's top level.

Things took off for Oliver after that, the 1990s proving rich pickings for him as he established himself as one of the top jockeys in the southern hemisphere. Just a year after his maiden Group 1 success, he would win the Melbourne jockeys' premiership for the first of 10 times, and the rest is history.

Media Puzzle Wins the Melbourne Cup

While Oliver was already a household name in Australia by 2002, he became known worldwide when he landed his second Melbourne Cup on Irish raider Media Puzzle. Dermot Weld was the trainer, picking up his second Cup after his famous win with Vintage Crop in 1993.

Media Puzzle's victory came just two weeks after the death of Oliver's brother Jason, which made the win all the more special and helped add another layer to the story. It is a picture etched into racing lore of Oliver reaching for the sky after crossing the line to share the win with his brother.

His first was in 1995 on Doriemus, whom Oliver had partnered to succeed in the Caulfield Cup, landing a huge cup double. Three Melbourne Cup wins have come his way - his third in 2013 saw him notch up his 100th Group 1 winner at the same time, another perfectly timed winner in his career. 

2023 will see his final chance to land the most famous race in Australia and attempt to tie Bobbie Lewis and Harry White with a record fourth win. That would be a fitting end to one of the finest careers in the saddle.

Hall Of Fame Induction

Most sports have a Hall of Fame where kids dream of being placed in honour of a long and storied career. Oliver entered the Australian Racing Hall of Fame way back in 2008 at the age of 36, which shows just what an astonishing impact he has made on the sport. 

More than 15 years have passed since he entered the Hall, and Oliver has continued to ride the winners at an astonishing rate. It is an honour that he has certainly lived up to throughout his riding career.

What does the future hold?

There will be plenty to keep Oliver interested in the future, with some work coming up next year for the Entain group who owns Ladbrokes. Working as an analyst there will allow him to share his expertise. 

Oliver is also looking to dabble into bloodstock, which, with his eye for horseflesh, should be a success. In honour of his career, the Group 2 Linlithgow Stakes on Victoria Derby Day will be renamed to commemorate his remarkable career.

There is no doubt that the loss of Damien Oliver from the jockey's room will be keenly felt. The 51-year-old has been a massive presence for more than 35 years. 

Oliver goes out on his terms, which is important - we wish him all the best for the last few months.