Ad Damien Oliver blows a kiss as he rides Media Puzzle to win the 2002 Melbourne Cup

When Damien Oliver pointed to the heavens

30 August 2023 Written by VRC

In the history of the Melbourne Cup there may not have been a more emotional moment at Flemington than when Damien Oliver secured victory aboard Media Puzzle in 2002.

Having lost his brother Jason in a Perth track accident only days before, Oliver needed to call on all his reserves to win the coveted Loving Cup Trophy.

And knowing he had not ridden well on Derby Day three days earlier, there was much speculation as to whether Damien should take the mount on the Dermot Weld-trained stayer. Yet it was like the script was already written, as Damien placed the Irish stayer in the best positions throughout and, at the top of the straight, all punters were screaming for Media Puzzle to win.

There was hardly a dry eye at Flemington as Oliver saluted crossing the finishing line and calling to the heavens, ‘My boy, my boy’, an affectionate exchange between two brothers who had endured a lifetime together. Damien Oliver would return to Perth the next day to bury his brother. It was the heart-wrenching story of the decade.

In winning the Cup, Media Puzzle (trained in Ireland) became the first of nine international horses to win the Melbourne Cup between 2000 and 2019. Others would include: Delta Blues (2006, Japan); Americain (2010, France); Dunaden (2011, France); Protectionist (2014, Germany); Rekindling (2017, Ireland), Cross Counter (2018, United Kingdom), Twilight Payment (2020, Ireland) and Verry Elleegant (2021, New Zealand).

With a total of 128 Group 1 wins, Damien Oliver is Australia’s most successful jockey and sits among the upper echelons of the turf. Oliver will ride at his final Melbourne Cup Carnival later this year and the VRC is proud to announce that the $500,000 Group 2 Linlithgow Stakes will now be registered as the $500,000 Group 2 The Damien Oliver (1400m) on Penfolds Victoria Derby Day, in recognition of his achievements.