DAMIEN Oliver’s friendship of more than 15 years with former champion jockey cum trainer Johnny Murtagh helped land him the Melbourne Cup ride on Mutual Regard.


Oliver, who partnered the Leon and Troy Corstens trained Smashing Doubt to win the Benchmark 70 Handicap at Geelong today, recalled he first met Murtagh when he was based in Hong Kong in the late 1990s.


While Oliver was riding as full time jockey in Hong Kong, Murtagh was doing a stint as a club jockey.


“I got to met him and his wife Oria there and got on well with them. They would come over for dinner quite a few times,” Oliver said.


“And, then Johnny returned the favor when I went over to England and Ireland a couple of years later and spent some time at Ballydole.


“Things didn’t really work out so I ended up staying with Johnny for some time and they looked after me.


“Johnny threw me some spare rides, a few winners. It was at the time he was riding Sinndar (Epsom & Irish Derby and Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe winner). It was great time to be there with him.”


Murtagh rang Oliver recently to offer him the ride on Mutual Regard in the $6.2 million Cup after Kerrin McEvoy decided to stay with Caulfield Cup placegetter Lucia Valentina in the Cup.


Oliver will have his first sit on Mutual Regard, winner of the Ebor Handicap, when he rides him in trackwork at Geelong on Saturday morning. (Racing Network)