Oliver claims 11th Scobie Breasley Medal

Champion jockey Damien Oliver has claimed his 11th Scobie Breasley Medal to again be crowned Victoria’s premier jockey following tonight’s virtual broadcast of the 2020 Victorian Racing Awards by Racing.com.

The Scobie Breasley Medal, which recognises excellence in riding during the metropolitan flat racing season as voted by the panel of Racing Victoria Stewards, was one of 13 awards handed out during the special 90-minute show.

With a physical event not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions, the broadcast enabled all within the Victorian racing industry to celebrate the successes of the 2019/20 season from the comforts of their home and hear from all winners.

Oliver polled 61 votes to claim Victorian racing’s most prestigious annual award, 10 ahead of his closest rival Dwayne Dunn on 51 votes. Five-time Scobie Breasley medallist Craig Williams took out third place with 43 votes ahead of apprentice Michael Poy (37) and Jye McNeil (36).

Oliver’s triumph follows his previous wins in the inaugural Scobie Breasley Medal in 1996 along with 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019, and underlines the 48-year-old’s status as Australia’s most decorated living jockey.

Australia’s sprinting superstar Nature Strip, one of only three horses to win multiple Group 1 races in Victoria during the 2019/20 season, took out the Victorian Racehorse of the Year Award after receiving 62 votes from the panel comprising 43 members of the racing media and RV’s handicapping team.

The award, which is judged on performances on Victorian tracks only irrespective of where horses are trained, provided Chris Waller with his fourth consecutive Victorian Racehorse of the Year title after Winx’s 2017-2019 threepeat. The honour came off the back of Nature Strip’s elite level wins in the Moir Stakes at The Valley and VRC Sprint Classic at Flemington last spring.

In a hotly contested affair, Japanese superstar Lys Gracieux attracted 57 votes for her dominant Cox Plate win to narrowly miss, while Melbourne Cup hero Vow and Declare was next best on 50 votes. Rounding out the top five were dual Group 1 winner Loving Gaby (38) and Australian Guineas hero Alligator Blood (22).

Victoria’s premier award for trainers, the Fred Hoysted Medal, underwent a change this year moving from the most outstanding single training performance of the season to a criteria recognising a Victorian-based trainer who demonstrated excellence across the 2019/20 racing season.

Trainers were judged on their performances on the track including feature wins, strike rate and training feats, as well as their overall contribution to the industry throughout the 12-month period.

Danny O’Brien was awarded his first Fred Hoysted Medal, having produced amazing training performances with Vow And Declare (Melbourne Cup), Russian Camelot (SA Derby) and Miami Bound (VRC Oaks). He amassed 100 winners at a strike rate of 17.7% up from 62 winners at 15.5% the season prior.

O’Brien’s engagement with a broad range of media and his behind-the-scenes social media content documenting the campaigns of Vow And Declare and Russian Camelot were among his contributions to win praise from the judging panel.

Young Caulfield trainer Nick Ryan was a worthy winner of the Colin Alderson Rising Star Award, which is open to Victorian-based trainers 40 years and under with no more than seven racing seasons’ training experience.

The former premiership-winning apprentice continued his emergence as a trainer in the 2019-20 season with 48 placegetters at a strike rate of over 40%. Among the 33-year-old’s highlights were wins by Sircconi in the Listed Winter Championship Final at Flemington and Mahamedeis in the VOBIS Gold Stayers at Caulfield.

Irish-born Shane Jackson won the Tommy Corrigan Medal for the second year in a row as the leading jumps jockey in Victoria and South Australia with votes awarded at each meeting in the 2019/20 season by RV and TRSA Stewards.

The win capped another stellar year in the saddle for the Warrnambool-based jockey who won his maiden Grand Annual Steeplechase aboard Ablaze and combined with Bit of a Lad to land the Australian Steeplechase and Thackeray Steeplechase.

Two Victorian Jockeys’ Association (VJA) peer-voted awards were also presented as part of the broadcast with Damien Oliver and Jye McNeil declared joint winners by their fellow riders as the VJA Most Valuable Jockey.

Up-and-coming apprentice Will Price was recognised for his extraordinary debut season when voted by his fellow riders as the winner of the VJA Rising Star Award. After debuting as a 19-year-old in September 2019, Price went on to ride 85 winners in less than 10 months.

Price was also among the 2019-20 premiership winners whose achievements were recognised during the special broadcast. He won the Victorian Apprentice Premiership, while Michael Poy was the best young rider in the city notching 40 wins to claim the Metropolitan Apprentice Premiership.

The Lindsay Park team of David Hayes, Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig claimed the Metropolitan Trainers’ Premiership as a triumvirate for the second year running with 68 winners.  Ciaron Maher and David Eustace took out the Victorian Trainers’ Premiership with 224 wins - 18 more than the Lindsay Park trio.

Craig Williams held off Damien Oliver to win his ninth Metropolitan Jockeys’ Premiership with 70 winners for the season. It is the fifth consecutive year the champion jockey, who celebrated his first Melbourne Cup win aboard Vow And Declare, has taken home the Roy Higgins Medal.

The statewide riders’ title provided thrilling a contest right down to the final week of the season, with Jye McNeil narrowly defeating Daniel Stackhouse to claim his first Victorian Jockeys’ Premiership.