“But I suppose the fact that you’ve had success and you’re comfortable and I’ve been doing it for a long time gives you a little bit of confidence that you know what’s required, rather than going into uncharted waters as some of the other jockeys might be.”
Oliver joined the Melbourne Cup Parade through the CBD on Monday, where a few untimely rain showers kept a lid on excitement and the convertibles carrying jockeys, trainers and owners down Swanston Street to Federation Square.
Hundreds of protesters from the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses took up their annual position, chanting “blood on your hands”, “animal abusers total losers” and “say nup to the Cup”.
The scandal over the slaughter of retired race horses has taken some of the shine from the Cup Carnival, with singer Taylor Swift and model Megan Gale among those to snub the event.
Some participants have scrambled to show their concern. Wagering and lotteries giant Tabcorp has a task force looking at ways to fix the issue, and dating app Bumble has promised to donate $130,000 to the Victorian racing industry’s Off The Track program for retired racehorses.
I was always dreaming, and all of my stories were about trying to win the big race, the Melbourne Cup.
— Kerrin McEvoy, jockey
Oliver won Saturday’s Derby aboard the Anthony Freedman-trained Warning; his earlier victory that day on Miami Bound helped him break Lewis’ record for the most wins during Melbourne Cup week, with Oliver now sitting on 74 victories.
But he has competition in his quest for a cup quartet.
Kerrin McEvoy, who won last year’s cup on board Cross Counter, and previously on Brew in 2000 and on Almandin in 2016, is also chasing a fourth cup.
McEvoy last week recounted his early years in the South Australian town of Streaky Bay (population: 1625) where he’d grown up in a racing family.
“I was always dreaming, and all of my stories were about trying to win the big race, the Melbourne Cup,” he said. “A couple of my old teachers reminisced and said it was horse racing, horse racing, horse racing, from year one onwards.”
Another jockey will be racing for a history quartet on Tuesday, with Damian Lane trying to become the first jockey in history to win the Grand Slam of group one Australian races in the same year, having won the Golden Slipper in March on Kiamichi, the Caulfield Cup on Japanese stayer Mer De Glace on October 19 and the Cox Plate a week later on another Japanese horse, Lys Gracieux.
Mer De Glace will go into the Melbourne Cup as favourite.
“Japanese horses have got great stamina and I am confident he’ll run it out,” Lane told radio station Racing and Sports on Monday.
“It’s obviously the pinnacle of our racing. Growing up as a racing fan it’s one race you’d always watch and it’s great to be part of it.”
But Oliver and McEvoy are confident in their chances. The latter’s ride, Finche, ran fourth in last year’s Melbourne Cup and should benefit from another year in the care of master trainer Chris Waller.
Eight weeks ago, Mustajeer won what has become a key lead-up race for the Melbourne Cup, the Ebor Handicap in Britain.
“I think he’s got a chance,” Oliver said. “I think he will be better suited at Flemington and the distance I think will be more suitable.”