Victory Downs ridden by Damien Thornton wins the Murray Downs Swan Hill Cup at Swan Hill Racecourse on June 11, 2017 in Swan Hill, Australia. (Brendan McCarthy/Racing Photos)
Victorian trainers will be out to reclaim the Swan Hill Carnival this year, after its two feature races went the way of South Australian raiders in 2017.
After Morphettville horseman Will Clarken took out the Golden Topaz (1200m) with the fast-finishing Mio Dio, given a peach of a ride by Linda Meech, Naracoorte trainer Sue Jaensch saddled the appropriately-named Victory Downs to glory in the Murray Downs Swan Hill Cup (1600m).
The win was Jaensch’s second Cup success following Bronze Roulette’s win in 2000, and came at the expense of several local hopes including jockey Harry Coffey, who finished second on Kaniana.
Coffey, of course, returns to his hometown carnival a Group 1 winner, having guided Sopressa to victory in the Australasian Oaks at Morphettville precisely one month ago.
And whilst riding a winner at the Swan Hill Carnival might not compare to the joy of notching your first Group 1, the three-day festival – which gets underway this Friday – will always hold a special place in the hearts of the entire Coffey clan.
“I’ve been coming to the carnival ever since I can remember, and I’ve been riding at it ever since I started out as an apprentice,” said Coffey.
“It’s always special because it’s a really big event for our family and friends, all the Coffeys love it so hopefully I can ride a winner or two for them.”
Harry’s Dad Austy set up his boutique stable at Swan Hill racetrack in the late 1980s, and with his wife Maree running the office as accounts manager and their son Sam serving as a stablehand and trackwork rider, it is well and truly a family affair.
Despite having saddled several city winners, training a treble at the 2010 Swan Hill Carnival remains Austy’s career highlight.
Last year, he combined with Harry to win two races, both at enticing odds. Dunga’s Dude caused a $40 boilover in the Benchmark 58 Handicap on day two, before Fashion Style defied a starting price of $50 to run away with the Maiden Plate the following afternoon.
This year, Austy will again have runners on all three days of the carnival including his Swan Hill Cup hope Our Mallee Hoff, whose last win came at his home track in March.
Austy’s numbers are inevitably dwarfed by his old friend Darren Weir, who has entered an army of gallopers in the hope of bettering the six winners he trained at last year’s Swan Hill Carnival.
Weir’s More Bricks, whose partner Dean Yendall was the leading jockey at last year’s carnival, is a leading chance in the VOBIS Gold Elvstroem Classic (1300m) on the opening day.
Weir is double-handed in the Golden Topaz, saddling last-start Flemington winner First Among Equals and Got the Goss, as is Clarken, who hopes either Steel Frost or last-start Morphettville winner Falcool can emulate Mio Dio’s achievement.
The powerful Lindsay Park stable is also well represented across the three days, and will attempt to win the Elvstroem Classic for the second year running with She Will Rise, having saddled River Jewel to victory last year.