Controversial jockey Damien Oliver has celebrated his return to metropolitan racing with a victory on Divine Calling in the Vitale & Sons Handicap (1500m) at Moonee Valley today.
Oliver returned from suspension at Geelong yesterday and wasted no time returning to the winners circle by winning the opening race on odds-on favourite Lion of Belfort.
The Melbourne Cup winning jockey had no luck on So Bella Arella in the opening race but gave Divine Calling a lovely ride and he kicked away to record a very impressive win and stamp himself as a 2013 Spring Racing Carnival contender.
Oliver was clearly delighted with the win and took his time returning to the scales, lapping up the cheers of the crowd.
“It is nice to get a good reception and more importantly I have the family here today and it’s lovely to have them here too,” Oliver said after the race.
“It’s just nice to be back and I’m really looking forward to the spring.
“It has certainly made me keener and hungrier than ever.”
Oliver rode Divine Calling at trackwork last Saturday and he clearly has a high opinion of Divine Calling, with trainer Gai Waterhouse admitting during the week that it was Oliver’s idea to run the Stratum colt in this race.
“He worked really well when I sat on him last Saturday and I thought this was an ideal race for him,” Oliver said.
“He quickened today like he worked last week.
“I reckon that he will run further – he could even be a Derby horse.
“He hasn’t got the pedigree to suggest it but he just relaxes and conserves all his energy and he has a nice turn of foot.
Oliver has the opportunity to win his first Group event, since his return, when he partners Happy Trails in the Group 2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) later in the day and he will also ride Lord Of Brazil in the Listed Drummond Golf Stakes (1200m).