Easter Sunday quintet reaffirms Shaun Cooper as Australia’s leading picnic jockey

Shaun Cooper booted home five winners at Swifts Creek on Sunday. Image: Country Racing Victoria.

Australia’s leading amateur jockey, Shaun Cooper, capped off a stellar Victorian Picnic Racing season at Swifts Creek on Easter Sunday. 

Racing at the famous Tambo Valley Picnic Racing Club meeting, the 34-year-old booted home his first winning quintet, riding five victories on the six-race program. 

Along with riding five winners at a meeting for the first time and sealing the Victorian 2023/24 picnic jockey’s premiership with 40 winners for the season, the 34-year-old brought up his 200th career win before taking his career total to an impressive 204 victories at a strike rate of 26%.

“Riding my 200th winner was special; I had actually forgotten all about it, but when I realised, it was a really good feeling,” Cooper told NSW Country and Picnic Racing. 

It was Cooper’s day at Swifts Creek, as he won on the David Noonan-trained Monolink ($1.50) in the 1200m Maiden Plate and the Nicole Dickson-trained Laststrikeyourout ($6) in the 1600m Tambo Valley Cup. 

Then, teaming up with regular trainer Don Dwyer, who coincidently sealed the Victorian 2023/24 picnic trainer’s premiership (18 wins) at Swifts Creek, Cooper won on Wild Canary ($1.50) in the 1200m Restricted Trophy Race, Starlight Glow ($1.60) in the 1600m Restricted Trophy Race, and Wilma Wombat ($%3.50) in the 1000m Restricted Trophy Race.

When asked if he thought five winners were a possibility leading into the meeting, Cooper admitted that he was surprised to achieve the rare feat. 

“I rode four winners a couple of weekends ago, and riding five on Sunday was the first time I’ve done it,” Cooper said. 

“I never expected it, especially with the last one (Wilma Wombat), as it was coming back from a mile to 1000m; I didn’t think it was a chance.

“Then two of the leaders ran off the track, and they ran to the outside fence, and I went to the rails, got to the lead and kicked clear. 

“It’s funny because the horse had hardly won all season, so to bring up my fifth win on it was a bit of a surprise.”

With 44 wins this season, including four victories in NSW, Cooper is on top of the Australia-wide 2023/24 picnic jockey’s premiership.

With plenty of interest in his services, Cooper said he would take a quick break before considering a few trips across the border. 

“A few people asked me on Saturday if I’m going to Coota (Cootamundra), and I said I will give it a couple of weeks, enjoy a break, and then see what’s on,” Cooper said. 

“When I went into NSW last season, I was riding solely for Victorian trainers. Then, it snowballed, and I started to get a few rides for trainers in NSW. 

“I am open to it if I can get some full books, but it will need to be worthwhile. It is a long way to travel, so I’d like to make a weekend out of these trips.”

Cooper has enjoyed a remarkable career since moving to Victoria, winning five of the past six Victorian picnic jockey’s titles. 

He’s the most successful picnic jockey in Australia during that same period, riding more winners than any other amateur hoop in any jurisdiction, and the scary thing is that he believes he has more to give. 

“I am really enjoying it and furnishing a bit more,” Cooper said. 

“I called my good mate Michael Walker recently, and he gave me a few pointers. I listened to him and managed to come out and ride five winners. 

“I have been riding for six seasons, but I am still learning and always trying to improve.”

While the Victorian picnic season has come to a close, NSW picnic racing action heads to Cootamundra on Saturday.

For the 2024 NSW Picnic Racing calendar, click here.