Champion WA jockey Damien Oliver claimed an emotional Group 1 victory when Voodoo Lad stormed home to win the Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot for leading trainer Darren Weir on Saturday.
In a thrilling finish, Voodoo Lad ($13) rocketed home from second last at the top of the straight to nail WA mare Enticing Star ($6) by three-quarters of a length. Malaguerra ($15) was a close third.
Oliver tracked Enticing Star into the race and Voodoo Lad sprinted powerfully down the outside to score a deserved Group 1 win.
Oliver choked back tears after winning WA’s premier sprint on the track which launched his famous career in the saddle.
“I love coming home and its where it all started for me, so its great to do it at home,” Oliver said.
“I always thought this horse would be well suited in this race – a pressure 1200.
“He showed up today and he finished too strong for them.
“To do it in front of my family and my mum, its great. I’ve got a lot of great memories coming back here.”
Oliver, 46, scored his 115th Group 1 win to move within four of George Moore’s record for a jockey in Australia.
“It’s not something I really set out to do, but obviously its in striking range now so I’m happy to keep having a crack at it,” Oliver said.
Oliver won the Winterbottom on Marasco in 2006 when it was a Group 2.
Voodoo Lad continued the interstate dominance of the Winterbottom, becoming the eighth raider to win in the past 11 editions of the race.
For Weir, it was his second win at the elite level in WA after Stratum Star won the Kingston Town Classic in 2016.
Australia’s leading trainer was ecstatic after Voodoo Lad broke through for his first Group 1 win.
“He’s been running so honest in these good-class races, he’s deserved one,” Weir said.
“He was always going to be back. Unfortunately that’s his racing style.
“It was a good effort, but gee it was some ride. He was back on the fence last there at one stage and went through them and then got him to the outside.
“That’s a massive thrill, that is.”
Weir credited WA trainer Lindsey Smith, whose stable is the base for Weir’s Ascot carnival team.
“This horse has had a couple of gallops on his track and I’ve said before how good his track is,” Weir said.
“We got some good, solid gallops into him without hurting his legs and that’s the key to it.”
Voodoo Lad, a dual Group 1 runner-up before the Winterbottom, scored his 13th win from 33 starts and boosted his earnings to $1.91 million.
Viddora, the $2.40 favourite, was held-up for clear running but was below her best when running 11th.
Jockey Joe Bowditch said: “She just wasn’t there at the 500 when I needed her.”