Two Rich Group I Wins for Aussie Star Damien Oliver

Melbourne’s top jockey Damien Oliver wowed them on one of Sydney’s biggest racing days March 31, almost on the second anniversary of a race fall which threatened his life and his saddle career.

The 34-year-old Hall of Famer’s four-win haul included the two main events -- the AUS$3.5 million Golden Slipper Stakes and the AUS$2.25 million Tancred (both Aus-I).

Oliver broke his spine in three places in a fall at Moonee Valley in April 2005. He sustained fractures to the third, fourth and fifth vertebrae and surgeons fused a section of his spine.

“I had titanium rods inserted and it was a long road back,” the six-time leading Melbourne rider explained.

“I've had to change the way I ride after the fall. I am not quite as ‘pretty’ but what I lack in style I think I've made up in wisdom. I'm a smarter rider now.”

In the Slipper, Oliver found himself on Forensics, the filly one of three Bob Ingham entries from the John Hawkes barn.

Another Hall of Famer, Darren Beadman, rode Shaft, Rod Quinn allotted the Deferential mount. That the locals partnered the males was no accident as victory by a colt in the Slipper adds a notional $15-20 million to their value as a stallion, at least ten times more than a female winner.

The Vinery-bred Forensics (13-1) saved ground from her rails draw. After turning fourth, she gained a split near the 250-meter mark and was able to hold off an also game Zizou (9-1) and Craig Williams to win by a short neck.

Zizou is by Fusaichi Pegasus  , sire of earlier group I winner Haradason. One of six entries by the David Hayes barn, Zizou had also finished second in the $1 million juvenile event, the Blue Diamond Stakes (Aus-I), in February.

The lone Gai Waterhouse entry, Meurice (15-2), ran third three-quarters of a length away and just ahead of the 4-1 elect Murtajill.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa al Maktoum’s Rock of Gibraltar colt turned in a huge run for fourth after sharing the speed from gate 14 of the 16 runners.

Deferential (15-1) and Shaft (9-1) were next home, the first-named son of Royal Academy making up an enormous amount of ground after being shuffled back to 14th at the turn.

Like the winner, Shaft is by the Arrowfield rostered Flying Spur. The first generation son won the 1995 Golden Slipper at the expense of the Ingham-owned champion Octagonal.

At the end of the 1,200 meters in 1:09.33 — 7/10ths outside the race mark — Arrowfield were again winners with Flying Spur.

A race earlier the John Messara-headed Arrowfield had won the Storm Queen Stakes (Aus-I), a race it owns naming rights to, and the 2007 winner Miss Finland.

On her way to next Saturday’s Australian Derby (Aus-I) and Horse of the Year honors, the filly by Redoute's Choice passed $4 million in winning her Derby prep by two lengths.

Forensics is the first foal from deceased Dehere mare, Prove It, a minor out-of-town winner from seven starts. Her dam, True Blonde, is a listed winner and a half sister to Snippets. He was a grand track and stud performer, the latter for Arrowfield until his death five years ago.

Sold by the Vinery at the 2006 Australian Easter yearling sale, Forensics cost Ingham $900,000. After a third win from four starts, her earnings leapt from $88,250 by more than $2 million.

Oliver also won the BMW-sponsored Tancred Stakes (Aus-I) on Bluetigeroo with another great piece of riding skill.

In complete contrast to the Slipper winner, this gelded 5-year-old realized just $10,000 as yearling, a fifth of the $50,000 his owners Sean Carroll, Andrew Kerr and Brad Castricum paid for him as a late entry to Australia’s only group I weight-for-age contest at 2,400 meters.

His buyers follow Australian Rules football teams the Blues, Tigers and [Kanga]Roos, hence the odd name.

A son of Encounter from a daughter of stamina influence Zamazaan, Bluetigeroo emerged as a potential group I stayer with his win in the Hobart Cup earlier this year.

But the weight-for-age staying championship was a horse of an entirely different color. Then Tawqeet was diverted to Dubai and ended up benched with a bowed tendon. The $4 million winner, Eremein, the 2006 winner was also sidelined.

Railings, second to Eremein, and a dual 2,400-meter group I winner, and Desert War headed betting at 3-1 with Bluetigeroo at 10-1. Desert War, a 5-time group I winner, had not won beyond 2,000 meters but was again able to dictate the pace.

Gorky Park and Railings challenged the leader mid-stretch with Oliver angling for a rails run on Bluetigeroo.

“He’s a pretty skinny horse so we were able to squeeze through,” Oliver joked later.

Railings fought on 1 1/4 lengths away for second and a length clear of Gorky Park (10-1). A 3-year-old by Montjeu, Gorky Park was responsible for another courgeous effort in finishing third, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Desert War. Another had yielded a close fourth in the Rosehill Guineas (Aus-I) seven days earlier.

The 2:26.56 gross came in 7/10ths of a second outside the race record set by the seventh-placed Grand Zulu in winning three years ago.

Not many weeks ago Caulfield trainer Colin Little had been looking forward to being in Dubai this weekend with El Segundo. But when those plans fell apart earlier in the fall, a Sydney trip with Bluetigeroo suddenly seemed a fair consolation.

The $1.25 million winner’s purse for his 11th win in 29 starts rocketed Bluetigeroo’s earnings to almost $1.8 million.

But the only person happier than his crew at the end of the day had to be the rider.

Rosehill’s biggest annual day ended up Damien Oliver day.

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