11/05/2002 1:00AM

Oliver wins one for brother


Irish invader Media Puzzle overpowered 22 rivals in a highly emotional triumph in the $2.06 million Melbourne Cup Handicap at Flemington on Tuesday.

The two-length victory by Media Puzzle, a 5-year-old son of Theatrical, left his rider, Damien Oliver, in tears. Oliver's older brother Jason had died following a fall in a trial race at Ascot Racecourse in Perth last Tuesday. Immediately after the winner's circle ceremony, Oliver left to fly to his brother's funeral in Perth, on Australia's west coast.

Oliver, whose father had also died in a riding accident, in 1975, wore his brother's breeches to victory. Dedicating the victory to Jason, he said, "Melbourne Cups mean nothing to me now. I would give it all back in a flash if I could have my brother back."

Oliver had considered skipping the Cup, but after consulting with his family he decided to ride. He brought Media Puzzle from midpack to the lead at the quarter pole. They quickly went three lengths clear and had no trouble holding off the 40-1 runner-up, Mr Prudent.

"I probably got there a bit too soon," Oliver said, "but he was going so well. He had it won a fair way from home."

Sent off as the 11-2 second choice, Media Puzzle recorded the second fastest time, 3:16.97, in the 142 runnings of the two-mile race. The riders reported that the official going of good was more like firm.

Media Puzzle gave his co-owner, Michael Smurfit, and trainer, Dermot Weld, their second Melbourne Cup victory. They won with Vintage Crop in 1993.

The Weld-trained 9-2 favorite Vinnie Roe finished fourth while carrying high weight of 130 pounds, 14 pounds more than Media Puzzle and seven more than second highweight Jardines Lookout, who finished seventh.

The 8-1 Beekeeper finished best of the three Godolphin entries in third, 2 1/4 lengths behind Media Puzzle. The other two Godolphin horses, Pugin and Hatha Anna, finished 18th and 20th.

With three of the seven European-trained horses in the race finishing in the top four, some Australian trainers have been calling for a limit to foreign runners in their country's most famous race. But Dale Monteith, chief executive of the Victoria Racing Club, which operates Flemington, stated that no restrictions on foreign entries would be imposed.