Damien Oliver has had to survive a lengthy protest from Craig Williams to land the first Group win of his comeback aboard Divine Calling in the Bill Stutt Stakes at Moonee Valley.
Divine Calling, the $3.20 favourite, came from back in the field in Friday night’s Group Two 1600m race to defeat Shamus Award by a short half-head with a neck to Cluster in a thrilling finish.
Shamus Award’s jockey Craig Williams quickly lodged an objection and put forward a spirited argument saying Oliver had made contact with his mount in the run to the line and also impeded his normal whip action which he said cost himself the race.
“He has laid over my horse and given the margin he’s cost us victory,” Williams said.
Oliver argued there was a shift from both horses when contact was made and although the horses raced tight to the finish, the major part of the incident happened after the winning post.
Stewards ruled there was a shift from both horses at a point when they came together and dismissed the objection.
Divine Calling’s victory brought up a treble on the night for Oliver and continued his winning form since his return earlier this month from a 10-month ban for a betting offence.
Gai Waterhouse’s foreman Roger Elliott said Divine Calling was likely to go to the Group One Caulfield Guineas (1600m).
Oliver had ridden Divine Calling to victory at Moonee Valley at his previous start and said he added another string to his bow by coming from off the speed on Friday night.
“Since he has been down in Melbourne he’s really thrived,” Oliver said.
“He hasn’t surprised me. From the first time I sat on him he gave me a nice feel.”
Meanwhile, the Peter Gelagotis-trained Mourinho scored a narrow victory in the Group Three JRA Cup (2040m), defeating the Jake Stephens-trained import Gris Caro.
Gelagotis said he was confident coming into the race and the winner would now head to a race like the Cranbourne Cup.