Damien Oliver has ridden in 24 Melbourne Cups, the second most behind Bobbie Lewis who rode in 33 Cups, yet he almost went without a start in this year’s race.
Oliver was without a ride until trainer Johnny Murtagh called him on Sunday with an offer to ride Mutual Regard in the Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m), something that relived the jockey.
“I was starting to get concerned when I didn’t have one (a Melbourne Cup ride) and when Johnny rang me on Sunday I was really pleased to take the ride,” Oliver told racing.com.
The six-year-old gelding has won two of his 2014 starts including the Ebor Handicap (2800m) his last time out on August 23rd. He led the race with two furlongs to go before pressing inside the final furlong and kept on gamely for a 1¼ length victory.
Oliver is confident Mutual Regard, who is a $19 chance with Ladbrokes.com.au, is in with a chance for the 2014 Melbourne Cup.
“Obviously he’s a good stayer; the Ebor is traditionally a good form-guide for the Melbourne Cup,” the hoop said.
“And without a stand-out Melbourne Cup horse this year, I think he’s got a good chance.
“He’s in good form, Johnny is a good trainer; he’s been down here and experienced the Cup, so he knows what type of horse is needed.
“So I don’t think he would have brought him all this way if he didn’t think he had a real chance.”
Lord Van Percy, second to Mutal Regard in the Ebor, ran well in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield on October 11, which puts Mutual Regard on a good formline ahead of his first Australian tilt. However, he is one of the only entries to go into the Melbourne Cup without a lead-in run.
Should Mutual Regard make the Melbourne Cup field it will be his first run at the highest level of racing after dominating the handicap circuit over in Britain.
Hugh Bowman was expecting to ride Mutual Regard in the 2014 Melbourne Cup and was happy following a successful appeal against the 20-meeting suspension he incurred at Caulfield last Saturday that would see him able to run on November 4th.
However his joy at being able to run in the race that stops the nation soured when he found out Murtagh had given the ride to Damien Oliver instead.
Bowman will now pin his hopes on Au Revoir for a Melbourne Cup start, though he may miss out in the end.
There is just under two weeks to go until the 2014 Melbourne Cup is run. Open your online betting account at Ladbrokes.com.au to get the best odds available for the race that stops the nation.