Jockey Damian Oliver has rewarded trainer Leon Corsten's faith to stick by him amid controversial times, producing a top class ride on filly Commanding Jewel to win the Group 1 Thousand Guineas at Caulfield on Wednesday. Oliver, the subject of a serious gambling investigation, showed why he is a true champion, doing what he does best and let his riding do the talking in what was a very impressive performance.
Ridden quietly for the first time in her five race starts, Commanding Jewel was brought out by Ollie at the perfect time, looming up past leader Longport and driving away for a strong 2.8 length win from Dear Demi and Zydeco.
The win took Commanding Jewel's prize money to over $400,000, still well behind the earnings of her 3/4 sister Atlantic Jewel, who won the same race a year ago. But her value will have increased substantially, as she is now the country's most desirable filly.
Corsten's said he never even gave it a second thought whether to keep Oliver onboard his racehorse after the betting allegations emerged.
"He's the best rider in Australia so why would I have second thoughts?" he said.
"He knows the filly so it would've been stupid taking him off....he rode her unbelievably."
Oliver, who had his Caulfield Cup (My Quest For Peace) and Cox Plate (Green Moon) rides taken from him, was very grateful for Corsten's support.
"I can't thank Leon enough. He is having a great run. He has a great team and to him and the owners that have stuck by me at this time, I can't thank them enough," Oliver said.
The win brought back flashes of Damien Oliver's 2002 Melbourne Cup victory, when he rode Media Puzzle under terrible duress, just days after his brother Jason had died in a racing accident.
"Everyone has tough times in their life," Oliver said after the Thousand Guineas win.
"It's how you respond to them that matters."
Damien's response was about as perfect as one could hope for.