Suzy Jarratt interviews John & Pip Cooper


Had he not broken his neck John Cooper might never have become a racehorse trainer – yet it was something he always wanted to be.

Originally from Hay in NSW he began riding and eventing through pony club. Over the years he’s won a raft of local, national and international awards and coached riders and teams for Olympic and Asian Pacific Games. He later went into competitive showjumping and in 2000, with wife, Pip, began developing the Falcon Sporthorse Equestrian Centre on 53 acres at Central Mangrove.

One day in 2017 he fell while jumping a mare at home breaking his neck and back in two places.  The recovery process sidelined him for many months. While waiting for his bones and soft tissue to mend John thought about horseracing and how he had always wanted to be a trainer like his father and grandfather.

“I’m going to apply for a licence,” he declared.

Pip & John Cooper

He was subsequently issued with a trainer’s licence, Pip and long-time groom, Alex, then got their strappers’ licences, John was back on his feet and Cooper Racing was up and running.

“A friend of my father-in-law gave us some horses,” said Pip, “they were really just rejects but we got them going and lo and behold one has so far won five races for us.”

That would be Coolaminyah Kid – Show A Heart out of Dancing Legs – dam sire Royal Academy (USA).

“And we’ve got two more from ex-jockey Paul King, again a couple of rejects. One’s from England and the other’s Arabolini from Germany who’s had a win and run two thirds.”  Arabolini – Sire: Pomellato (DEU) Dam: Anne Boleyn (GBR) – dam sire Rainbow Quest (USA).

The Coopers go to the Gosford racecourse a couple of times a week for fast work and train at Central Mangrove the rest of the time.

Pip explains “We’ve a track going around the outside of four big paddocks with a gentle hill which is good for their fitness. I don’t do any of the racehorse riding I’m really hopeless. John does all that and another rider, Brian, does the trackwork at Gosford. I just stick with the dressage.”  Pip  certainly isn’t hopeless at dressage;  She is a NCAS Level 2 Dressage Specialist Coach and Coach Educator and a successful FEI competitor. “John’s still coaching show jumping and eventing and has some really good pupils, but he’s not going to any more jumping shows, he’s pretty obsessed with racing.

“I go to all the race meetings with him. It’s heaps of fun – I love it.

“Like many trainers John feels it’s very important that the horses, when they’ve finished racing, have the chance for other careers in jumping, eventing or showing.”

The couple has a lot of equestrian contacts which can help that transitioning process.

“Pip and I can get them going on the flat before they’re suitably rehomed,” said John. ”Thoroughbreds can suit riders with a limited budget and can be very competitive against other more expensive breeds. A TB can be up there with them.

“When I was showjumping I’d follow the Tristram bloodlines. Presently I have a student who competes on a Manhattan Rain horse which is a beautiful jumper, and another has a Written Tycoon gelding.

“OTTs are often more educated than other horses,” continued John. “They’ve been in cross ties, barriers and trucks, and TBs often suit petite riders as it could be said they’re ‘a lazy man’s horse’ as they don’t require a lot of pushing.”

Cooper Racing will be ongoing sponsors of the TSHA.

“We were prompted to get involved after reading Kate Roots’ FB post which she posted after the 7.30 Report screening,” said Pip. “She mentioned the TSHA and suggested people sponsor Thoroughbred classes.

“So that’s what we’re doing.  And then John and I decided that every time we win a race we’ll contact Krissy Harris and sponsor another class.”

Hopefully the Coopers will enjoy a string of wins in years to come!

by SUZY JARRATT, November 2019