Controversial jockey Damien Oliver is set to ride Group 1 winner Happy Trails in the Group 2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on September 14, just days after returning from his eight month suspension.
Oliver was suspended for eight months at the conclusion of the 2012 Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival due to placing an $11,000 bet on rival horse Miss Octopussy in a race at Moonee Valley in October 2010.
With the threat of suspension hanging over his head, Oliver was still able to ride three Group 1 winners last spring, winning the Thousand Guineas (1600m) with Commanding Jewel, the Victoria Derby (2500m) with Fiveandahalfstar and the Emirates Stakes (1600m) with Happy Trails.
Oliver’s suspension will end in the second weekend of September and he told Sky Racing HQ that he is looking forward to riding two of his past Group 1 winning mounts this spring.
“Commanding Jewel and Happy Trails are two that I am looking forward to riding so far,” Oliver said on Sky Racing Radio.
“I will probably ride Happy Trails in the Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes and that is my first or second day back so he will be my first key booking.”
Oliver was permitted to return to trackwork on July 16 and has ridden horses in barrier trials for several leading trainers including Leon Corstens, Chris Waller and Gerald Ryan.
The duel Melbourne Cup winning jockey said riding horses in trackwork has helped him regain his fitness and he is now only a few kilograms away from his ideal riding weight.
“I am really enjoying it, it is nice to be back on the track, riding the horses and catching up with a lot of familiar faces,” Oliver said.
“The body is in good shape now, it was a bit stiff and sore probably the second or third day back but now that I’ve been going for a little while it is actually feeling really good.
“The heaviest I go was 64 and I am now just getting under 58.
“I’m getting close to where I need to be, I have just over three weeks before I am back.”
Oliver said that he has been well received by trainers since returning to trackwork and will be looking to repaying their faith by riding as many winners as possible when he returns.
“Most of the trainers have been quiet welcoming, I haven’t really experienced anything other than that so far but I still have to win back a lot of confidence,” Oliver said.
“My aim is to work as hard as I can when I get back on the horses and ride as many winners as possible.”