IN Racing
Cooper enjoying southern stint
“Shockallia has been in fantastic form and when I heard I was riding him I was stoked."
Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | March 08, 2024
Promising apprentice jockey Donovan Cooper. Photo: Race Images

Apprentice jockey Donovan Cooper has been enjoying his stint in the South Island and is hoping to bag a few more winners before he heads back north.

The promising hoop was making a name for himself in the north before a track incident sidelined him in September and he has been on the comeback trail since.

“I was on a little Satono Aladdin filly for Catherine Cameron that I worked every day and unfortunately a piece of plastic blew across the track and she ended up going over onto me. I ended up fracturing my pelvis,” Cooper said.

“It was six weeks of bed rest and on crutches, and then slowly working back into normal ground work.

“I was out for three months and I was estimated to be out for four-and-a-half months. I was lucky in the recovery process and I did really well.

“I did quite a bit of physiotherapy, I did two to three sessions a week as to where I was told to do one. I pushed to get back because I knew the big summer season was coming up.

“I have one or two issues now and again, but I just go and see a physio and it has worked out for the next two or three weeks.”

While he made solid progress in his recovery, rides were proving to be hard to attain, so the decision was made to head to the South Island where riding opportunities were more widely available for the expat South African.

“It was quite difficult getting back into stride and getting rides up north,” he said.

“Andrew Forsman and Donavan (Mansour, employers) had a meeting and we thought it was a good idea to go down south just to get me back in a rhythm and if it goes well enough there is a possibility to stay, which I would like, but at the same time I do want to head back up north eventually.

“I am currently on loan to Stephen Marsh at Riccarton. I have been down in Christchurch since the start of last month and I am absolutely loving it, it is a really great environment and I have got quite a lot of support from the Riccarton trainers.

“I am down south until the end of April. I might try and stay down here for the rest of the season, but that is completely up to my bosses. I want to do the winter in-between south and north if it is a possibility.”

That decision is still at least a month away, and in the meantime Cooper will trek south to Gore on Sunday where he has secured a handful of rides, including the in-form Shockallia in the AB Lime Wyndham Cup (2000m).

The six-year-old son of Shocking has been firing on all cylinders for trainer Kelvin Tyler, having won two of his last three starts, including the Listed Dunedin Gold Cup (2400m) at Wingatui last month.

He has since posted a runner-up result in the Invercargill Gold Cup (2600m) at Ascot Park with senior hoop Lisa Allpress in the saddle, and will get the benefit of Cooper’s four-kilogram claim this weekend.

“Shockallia has been in fantastic form and when I heard I was riding him I was stoked,” Cooper said.

“I went down to Wingatui and rode Go Lotte for Kelvin Tyler. Things didn’t really go our way that day, but the next day he messaged me saying he was really happy with the ride and he had Shockallia running and would I be keen to ride him?

“My claim makes a big difference, especially in races like that, it takes a fair bit of weight off their back.”

Shockallia will jump from barrier six in the eight-horse field, and Cooper is hoping to give him an economical passage.

“At this stage, from gate six, I am probably going to sit third or fourth and let them roll up in front and get him into a nice, comfortable position into the home straight and let him do his business from there,” he said.

“It is quite a small field, but in my opinion, I think he will be the one to beat.”