Oliver hunts Group 1 farewell at Caulfield

Legendary jockey to have final Victorian Group 1 ride at the scene of many great triumphs.

<p>Orange County was Damien Oliver’s sixth Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes winner.</p>

Orange County was Damien Oliver’s sixth Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes winner.

Picture: Racing and Sports

The fanfare was understandable after last Saturday's final race at Flemington, which marked the last time Damien Oliver rode at the track.

It closed out the biggest week of the year after Australia's most famous racecourse, where Oliver is the most successful rider in Melbourne Cup Carnival history.

But many would most closely-associate Caulfield to the Hall of Fame hoop, who will ride his final feature Victorian meeting at that circuit this weekend.

Oliver's first Group 1 win came at the venue, aboard Submariner in the 1990 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes, while he owned the Caulfield Cup in the 1990s, winning the event four times in eight years.

It is therefore fitting that the 51-year-old's Victorian feature swansong is the new date featuring the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes and Thousand Guineas, races Oliver has won more than any other jockey.

"I've had a lot of success at Caulfield over the years, it's been a happy hunting ground for me," Oliver said earlier this week.

"The Rupert Clarke in particular, I think I've won it six times, so that's been a great race for me and I think (I've won) maybe five Thousand Guineas, so it'd be great to finish it off on a good note hopefully in one of the big ones."

Vilana is Oliver's hope of a seventh win in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes, to go with Submariner, Mannerism (1992), Poetic King (1994), Testa Rossa (1999), Mr Murphy (2001) and Orange County (2008).

Vilana is trained by James Cummings, grandson of the legendary Bart Cummings, who prepared Submariner.

Oliver will ride Vibrant Sun for Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr in the Thousand Guineas, a race he won for Price aboard Gallica in 2008. His other wins in that race are Azzurro (1992), Special Harmony (2003), Alinghi (2004) and Commanding Jewel (2012).

He also has key rides on the undercard with Arkansaw Kid a warm favourite for the Group 3 Blue Sapphire Stakes (Race 6), Brayden Star a top hope in the $500,000 Country Cups Final (Race 9) and Queen Of The Ball pressing for favouritism in the Group 3 How Now Stakes that rounds out the card.

Oliver concedes it is starting to hit home that his 35-year career, which has featured more than 3200 winners, 129 of them at Group 1 level, is coming to a close and admits to getting a little nostalgic at venues that have been so close to his heart.

"It's starting to hit home and I'm getting a bit of realisation that there's not long to go," he said.

"There's a little bit of nostalgia, looking back over a long period of time and a long career, but there are a lot of fond memories.

"I've still got a few weeks to go yet, so hopefully there's still some more winners to come."

After Saturday's meeting Oliver will serve a suspension incurred at Flemington last Saturday before turning his attention to his native Western Australia, where he will ride over the final three weeks of The Pinnacles carnival.

His final meeting will be the December 16 fixture at Ascot, where the feature event is the $1.5 million Damien Oliver Gold Rush that for this year has been renamed in his honour.