Damien Oliver now has right of refusal over Vow And Declare for the remainder of the Spring Carnival after Craig Williams’ decision to partner Surprise Baby in next week’s Turnbull Stakes.
Williams rode Vow And Declare to victory in last year’s Melbourne Cup and was aboard for the first-up ninth placing in the Makybe Diva Stakes, but has elected to partner the Paul Preusker-trained Surprise Baby in the $500,000 Group 1 at Flemington on October 3.
O’Brien revealed on Wednesday morning that Oliver, who rode Vow And Declare into fourth place in last year’s Turnbull but was forced to forgo the ride in the Cups due to the horse’s light weight, had been booked.
“Damien Oliver will ride Vow and Declare, as he did in last year’s Turnbull,” O’Brien told RSN927.
“Damien will have the option going forward.”
Oliver now becomes the first-choice rider for the reigning Melbourne Cup champion and the horse many consider the most likely to inherit the crown, Russian Camelot.
Russian Camelot is the $11 third elect in Melbourne Cup market, with Vow And Declare a $31 chance.
None of the four horses to have won the Melbourne Cup in consecutive years have done so under different jockeys, although Bill Duncan rode Peter Pan to the first of his wins, in 1932, with Darby Munro taking the reins in 1934.
O’Brien expects Vow And Declare will tighten in Melbourne Cup betting after the Turnbull, a set-weights-and-penalties event over 2000 metres.
“We think he can win the Turnbull,” O’Brien said of the five-year-old, a $17 chance in Turnbull Stakes market.
“His two runs at 2000 (metres) at Flemington have been fourth in last year’s Turnbull and third in the Australian Cup, so we’re expecting him to be very hard to beat there next Saturday.
“He announced himself last spring in that race and I’m sure he’ll do a similar thing this spring.”