Gai Waterhouse-trained Divine Calling survived a photo finish and a protest to give controversial jockey Damien Oliver his third victory of the night in the Group 2 Stutt Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley.
Divine Calling was ridden off the pace before finishing strongly and looked as though he had the race won when he hit the front with 100 metres left to run but the brave leader Shamus Award fought back in the final stages; with Divine Calling winning the bob to record a narrow win.
Craig Williams, who rode Shamus Award, launched a protest after the race claiming that Divine Calling caused interference in the final 100 metres and aggressively pleaded his case in the stewards’ room.
“I was in front at the 200 metres Damien Oliver has surged and his mount has got to my horse,” Williams said in the stewards’ room.
“Prior to that I had the whip out, using the whip out in the normal manner, and the rules state that he is not allowed to impede by whip movement and he has.
“After that he has continued on, his horse has bumped my horse clearly and he has then raced hard against my horse and remained in contact with my horse until the winning post.
“Damien Oliver has never stopped to correct his mount at any time and with the margin being what it is his obligation after making contact is to correct his horse and that clearly outweighs the margin that my horse got beaten.”
Oliver vehemently defended his mount and claimed that it was actually Shamus Award who shifted in and instigated the contact between the two horses.
“You can see that I have come from a couple of lengths behind the second horse and made good ground to him,” Oliver said.
“As we have come to the point where we come together my horse has shifted in towards Shamus Award but I felt his horse, at the same time, has shifted out towards mine.
“I did not and put the whip away and go back to hands and heels.
“I felt that the majority of the two horses coming together came after the winning post.”
Stewards dismissed the protest; ruling that both horses shifted causing the interference which meant that the protest could not be justified.
The protest overshadowed quality performances from both Divine Calling and Shamus Award; with Divine Calling racing against his usual pattern while Shamus Award stayed on strongly to make the race a contest in the final stages.
Anthony Cummings-trained Cluster loomed as the winner but was unable to catch the leading pair and is still yet to record his first race win.