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Damien Oliver returns to lift Melbourne Cup

By Martin Kelly

Jockey Damien Oliver's won the Melbourne Cup on Fiorente, 11 years after his previous success in the race which was very much made at Down Royal.


Media Puzzle won the Cup in 2002 under Oliver, two years after an Ulster Derby triumph at Down Royal with Pat Smullen in the saddle.

Yesterday, Fiorente, trained by Gai Waterhouse and ridden by Oliver, won the £2.5million first prize at Flemington, beating Ed Dunlop's Red Cadeaux into second with Mount Athos third.

Aussie Oliver had only recently returned form a lengthy ban for betting on a rival horse.

"Nothing is a given in this game but I was determined to work hard when I came back and I've been very fortunate that someone like Gai got behind me and what a great honour to win her first Melbourne Cup for her," he said.

"It was a bit like having a Christmas present and not being able to open it because I've been really excited about riding this horse and trying to keep a lid on it.

"I knew I had Red Cadeaux still in front of me and I knew he was going to take me a fair way, but when you're in front that last 200 metres seems to take forever."

Sydney-based Waterhouse, who was born in Scotland and once appeared in an episode of Doctor Who, has had an occasionally colourful career but remains an Australian institution.

"Everyone who is a trainer wants to win the majors and the major staying racing in Australia is the Melbourne Cup so it ticks that off the bucket list," she said.

"It's a burning desire, so today was fantastic. I knew I had a very good horse and he was trained for the occasion.

"Everyone that comes up to me, all the little people, that wish me luck, I get such a kick out of it and I want to thank them. I've got to do it again now, haven't I?"

Waterhouse was asked if Royal Ascot could be on the agenda.

"I'd like to go," she said. "Both horses (French import Tres Blue was 22nd) could easily come back to Europe."

Irish champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins watched his runner Simenon finish fourth: "There are no excuses, everything went right and we were just beaten by better horses on the day.

"I'd have no problem coming back, and hopefully we'll have another to come over with him. We could still look at the Japan Cup and Hong Kong Vase."

There was sadness as French filly Verema had to be put down after breaking her leg on the back straight and Michael Owen's beloved Brown Panther was struck into during the race but the injury was not found to be serious.

Owen tweeted: "Scan has come back clear. Only superficial gash that requires stitches. We live to fight another day!"

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