Damien Oliver’s roller coaster Spring took a turn for the better with the champion jockey taking out the Group 1 $1.5m AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington today on Fiveandahalfstar.
Winning trainer Anthony Cummings was is two minds to run the Hotel Grand gelding in the Derby but was convinced by Oliver midweek to take on the three year olds giving Oliver his fourth Derby victory.
Oliver tracked leader Jimando all the way and on the home turn allowed Fiveandahalfstar to stride to the front and held off all challengers all the way down the long Flemington straight.
Oliver is currently under investigations for allegedly betting and lost some important rides over the Melbourne Spring Carnival but repaid Cummings for his faith and was back to his best in the Derby today.
“I was glad I was able to talk Anthony into it,” Oliver said.
“The horse couldn’t have been fitter today and we had a nice run and he just stayed really well. He just outstayed them today.”
Oliver also dedicated the Derby win to his brother Jason who was killed in a race fall ten years ago and is never far out of his memory.
Fiveandahalfstar had been winning in restricted races in Sydney and Cummings could see a future stayer developing and took the opportunity to test him at the highest level.
“He’s a nice horse and obvious an above average stayer. He’s got a fairly bold sort of running style, but much like his old man, Hotel Grand, was very much like that,” Cummings said.
“Hotel Grand was one of the best racehorses I’ve ever trained and it’s nice to get one of his sons to come out and do the job.”
Cummings said that Oliver had convinced him to run today and after favourite It’s A Dundeel got beat at Moonee Valley last week, Cummings decided to have a go at the Derby.
“I was looking at It’s a Dundeel and thought that he was going to be tough to beat. I seen him getting beaten last Saturday, opened the door.”
“It’s his seventh or eighth run is as many weeks.”
Runner-up Super Cool ($6) had plenty of time to run down the winner, Fiveandahalfstar ($41) but in the end couldn’t make up the ground with $101 chance Rawnaq running on for third.
James McDonald on $2.70 favourite It’s A Dundeel was always well back in the field and struggled in the straight to make up enough ground and finished seventh.