He departed Perth as a promising apprentice with the racing world at his feet and returns home to where it all began as one of Australia’s greatest-ever jockeys.

Western Australian-born Damien Oliver has called time on his decorated riding career and will retire following the Ascot Pinnacles carnival in December.

Oliver commenced his apprenticeship in Perth as a 15-year-old to his stepfather, Lindsey Rudland and rode his first winner at Bunbury on Mr Gudbud.

He then took up an invitation to go east and join Victorian trainer, Lee Freedman, who at that stage was an emerging force in Australian racing.

Three decades on and Oliver has ridden over 3000 winners, including the ‘grand slam’ of Australian racing: the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Golden Slipper.

He won the Melbourne Cup on Doriemus (1995) and Fiorente (2013), but is best remembered for his emotional victory aboard Media Puzzle (2002), a week after the tragic death of his brother, Jason in a fall at Belmont.

Oliver was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall Of Fame in 2008 and the Western Australian Racing Hall Of Fame a year earlier.

William Pike, Perth’s best jockey for 13 seasons, says Oliver is a trailblazer whose record and standing in Australian racing is unrivalled.

“Damien is a rider that I have long admired, respected and a person I have looked up to,” Pike said to The Races WA.

“Hailing from WA he was somewhat of a trailblazer for Western Australian boys who have gone east.

“Riders like Mark Zahra and Damien Lane, very successful jockeys in their own right who have carved out successful careers interstate.

“His longevity is remarkable; he has done it consistently over many years.

“When you look at his Group 1 record, it’s amazing, really.

“He has to be considered one of Australia’s best jockeys.”

Last week Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA) recognised Oliver’s contribution to Australian racing by naming an award in his honour.

To be presented annually, the Damien Oliver Award acknowledges an up-and-coming WA apprentice who has shown dedication and passion in their vocation.

The inaugural winner will be announced at the Perth Apprentice Awards on Monday, September 4.

Julio Santarelli