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Damien Oliver loses Melbourne Cup ride after Durston scratching

Legendary jockey and three-time Melbourne Cup winner Damien Oliver could be without a ride in the great race for only the third time in as many decades after Caulfield Cup winner Durston on Thursday was deemed “unsuitable” to compete on veterinary grounds.

An international panel of imaging experts, convened by Racing Victoria veterinary services, found Durston “at heightened risk of injury” after discovering a “gray area” in the stayer’s CT scan results.

All horses still nominated for the Cup, local and international, must complete a standing CT scan of the legs to remain in contention.

RV on Thursday began the first of two pre-race physical inspections, examining 22 of the 32 horses still entered for the Cup.

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Robert Hickmott-trained Schahau (32nd in the order of entry) was found lame in the left front leg. The stayer will be reinspected on Friday.

The Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained Gold Trip passed inspection but the horse displayed “some heat in the right front foot”.

Gold Trip is suitable to race in its current condition, but will re-examined on Friday “as a precaution”.

Imports Deauville Legend, Hoo Ya Mal, Loft, Without A Fight and Camorra will undergo initial examinations on Friday along with Arapaho and Makram.

The Joseph Pride-trained Stockman will be examined by a Racing NSW veterinarian in Sydney on Friday and again post-race on Saturday after the gelding contests the Rosehill Gold Cup (2000m).

The Melbourne Cup entrants in Saturday’s Archer Stakes (2500m) at Flemington will be re-examined by RV vets after the race.

A second pre-race veterinary inspection of all horses in the final field will be conducted by a panel of RV vets on Monday.

Oliver got the ride on Durston after the Chris Waller-trained stayer won the Caulfield Cup a fortnight ago.

Caulfield Cup-winning jockey Michael Dee, who piloted Durston at the Heath, had already committed to Lunar Flare.

Durston has been ruled out of the Melbourne Cup. Picture: Racing Photos via Getty Images)

Oliver’s first ride in the Cup in 1989 was rather inconspicuous, as the future Hall of Fame jockey fell off the mare Salisopra.

The 50-year-old has missed only two Cups since, through injury (2005) and suspension (2017).

Oliver has toasted Cup success aboard Doriemus (1995), Media Puzzle (2002) and Fiorente (2013).

The late Harry White, who passed away last Friday, holds the record for most Cup wins (four), ahead of Oliver and Kerrin McEvoy, who will ride favorite Deauville Legend next Tuesday at Flemington.

Durston’s withdrawal has Oliver stranded on three Cup wins for at least another year.

Oliver could not scramble on Thursday with limited rides available in his weight range.

Durston presented at the University of Melbourne Equine Center in Werribee last Friday for the compulsory CT scans of distal limbs.

Heartbroken Waller released a statement on Thursday morning about Durston’s shock withdrawal.

Waller said the imaging revealed a “gray area” in Durston’s left hind leg, with specialists unable to be sure if it is “old or new or whether it is even something to be concerned about”.

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“It is all about safety, for the horse and the rider and the longevity of the horses,” Waller said.

“It is very disappointing for all connections of the horse as well as my stable because so much time and effort goes into these horses, it’s just heartbreaking.

“Durston is sound, he galloped well on Tuesday morning and my vet trotted him up following this, however we must respect modern science and learn from this.”

Durston will undergo an MRI scan to further investigate the limb issue.

Durston was a $ 13 equal third favorite for the Cup after blousing Gold Trip in the Caulfield Cup last start.

RV on Thursday evening said it had not received any further CT scan results.

Only 32 horses remain in the Melbourne Cup order of entry.

Bendigo Cup winner High Emocean is right on the cusp of qualification in 25th position.

The Melbourne Cup field of 24 will be declared on Saturday after final acceptances close at 4.30pm.

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