In exciting news for the NSW picnic circuit, Victoria’s leading amateur jockey will appear at Grenfell on Saturday.
Born and bred in New Zealand, Shaun Cooper has been riding at the picnics for five seasons, winning four of the last five Victorian Picnic Jockey Premierships, including the last three titles.
This season alone, the 33-year-old has booted home 27 winners at a 21.6% strike rate, and he is keen to test out the NSW circuit, commencing with Grenfell on Saturday.
“I’ve never been to Grenfell before, but trainer Don Dwyer is going, and I had two rides with him, and when I got a couple more, I thought it was worthwhile heading up,” Cooper said.
“I’ve not heard anything about Grenfell, but I found a replay on YouTube this morning (Thursday), and it looks like a big open track, which is good, as some of them can be a bit tight and hairy.”
Cooper will take five rides on the day, jumping aboard the Don Dwyer-trained pair of Kulina in the 1000m Maiden Plate and All Too Creedy in the 2000m Open Trophy Race, along with the Debbie Prest-trained Sham in the 1400m Class B Handicap, the John Rolfe-trained Not So Wild in the 1200m Class Two Trophy Handicap, and the Michael Mulholland-trained Golden Eclipse in the 1400m Grenfell Picnic Cup.
Cooper’s on a few live chances, but he thinks Kulina will take some beating from gate three in the opening event.
“She’s been measuring up in TAB maidens here in Victoria, and you would think that kind of form would hold up at the picnics,” Cooper said.
“I ride all his (Dwyer’s) races, and he is one of my biggest supporters, and I hope I can get a winner for him.”
All Too Creedy will go around as the top weight in the ten-furlong staying event, and while he has yet to showcase good recent form, the five-year-old is the reigning Victorian picnic horse of the year.
The Jimmy Creed gelding won six times and finished second on three occasions during a stellar run of nine races at the picnics in late 2021 and early 2022, with his best results between the distances of 2000m and 2350m.
“That horse won picnic horse of the year, and they were all over 2000m, and on his best form, he has to be a winning chance,” Cooper said.
“It is his pet distance, and I do not know how he got such a lightweight, and he isn’t racing the best, but if he goes as good as he can, he will be hard to hold out.”
Comparing the NSW and Victorian picnic racing circuits can be challenging, but Cooper believes NSW is currently the premier state.
“That’s a tough one to answer,” Cooper replied when asked which state had the better racing.
“I reckon up your way; they are a lot stronger (in NSW).
“I rode in the (NSW Picnic Champion Series) grand final six months ago, and the horse I rode for Connie Greig (Brooklyn Star) ran third, and Hemsted won, and they both came out and won at their next TAB starts, and it shows it is pretty strong.
“Down here (in Victoria), it seems like we have our real loyal picnic trainers, and that bunch that will never be seen at the picnics, but in NSW, a lot of trainers dabble in and out of both, and I am not sure why; it’s probably because the prizemoney is better.”
Cooper’s appearance at Grenfell on Saturday only adds to what should be a terrific day at the races, with the $10,000 Grenfell Picnic Cup headlining the six-race program.
For more on the race day, click here.
For Grenfell’s fields, click here.