The West

Syndicate keeps faith in Oliver
Damien Oliver at the track yesterday.

As he has for much of his extraordinary life in the saddle, champion WA jockey Damien Oliver put his emotions to one side yesterday and prepared to ride another winner.

Oliver, twice a Melbourne Cup-winning rider, was this week dumped from his rides in two big races after a claim that he placed a winning $10,000 bet on a rival horse in 2010.

But yesterday was like any other Tuesday morning for Oliver as he rode trackwork at Caulfield, where he may well win one of the annual Melbourne spring carnival's biggest races today.

The 40-year-old is a genuine chance to win the Thousand Guineas aboard Commanding Jewel. He was backed to the hilt by leading horse syndicator Brad Spicer, who said he would be crazy to take Oliver off the second favourite.

Oliver is understood to have been told by lawyers not to comment on the betting allegation about the 2010 race at Moonee Valley, which is being investigated by Racing Victoria stewards.

In 2002, days after the death of his brother Jason in a trackwork fall at Belmont, Oliver rode Media Puzzle to victory in the Melbourne Cup.

His father Ray died in a Kalgoorlie race fall in 1975.

So those at Caulfield early yesterday were not surprised that the jockey with almost 100 Group 1 wins was still showing his trademark smile.

Mr Spicer's decision to stick by Oliver bucked the trend this week after prominent Melbourne racehorse owners stripped him of rides in the Cox Plate and Saturday's Caulfield Cup.

Oliver is booked for four rides at today's meeting and Mr Spicer said he deserved the presumption of innocence.

He said the jockey rang him on Sunday night to assure him he was still the right rider for the horse.

"It would just be crazy for us to take him off at this stage and, to be fair, it never even crossed our minds," Mr Spicer said.

"Our job is to look after owners and the horse's best interests and to win a Group 1 on Wednesday - Damien is the best man for that job. He's ridden under emotional duress after the death of his brother Jason and he knows how to shut all that out and concentrate on the job at hand.

"This is more insignificant than that and hopefully just a speed bump in his career. But the stewards can worry about that and if they had anything to worry about now, they would have stood him down.

"Damien rang on Sunday night after the news broke and reassured us he had the fire in the belly and the will to win.

"He reckons he can get the job done.

"The only negative is that we've got a lot of owners having their first Group 1 runner and they've got to put up with all the innuendo surrounding Damien. What Damien does off the field we don't have any control over."

Last year's Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate-winning rider Craig Williams has pledged the industry's support for Oliver.

Racing Victoria chief handicapper Greg Carpenter yesterday claimed that, despite the investigation into Oliver and the two-year disqualification of jockey Danny Nikolic, the State's racing standard and integrity were world-leading.

The West Australian

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