By Julieanne Horsman at Goulburn Racecourse
Three years ago Kopi Luwak nearly killed trainer Danny Williams in a trackwork accident. Two years ago Kopi Luwak bowed a tendon so severely, he was never expected to race again. But today Kopi Luwak stormed home to salute in the South Eastern Qualifier of the Country Championships leaving Danny Williams speechless.
“I’m numb,” Williams said immediately after the race. “I was watching Don’t Give A Damn to be honest and Chewbacca and my own horse Acquittal and trying to assess how they were running because a lot of them were not running in the way I expected them to. I missed Kopi who was a bit of a shock on the inside. If I only had one runner I’d be bawling my eyes out at the moment but I’ve got nine.”
Winning jockey Mitchell Bell gave Kopi Luwak a perfectly timed ride. He settled him midfield and at the 300m he darted through a small gap, saving a lot of ground.
“We all know the horse has a lot of natural ability and I just bided my time,” Bell said. “He will definitely suit the 1400m at Randwick. He’s a nice big striding horse and he’d lap that up.”
Bell only picked up the ride this morning when Rory Hutchings couldn’t make weight. It’s the first time he’s qualified a horse for the Country Championships.
“His loss my gain unfortunately but I was happy to get the win for Danny,” Bell said. “Danny has a lot of nice horses here and I’m just glad I was lucky enough to be on the better one. Danny is a great trainer, a great bloke and to see the emotion on his face after everything he’d be through with the horse was something special.”
Williams also trained the second and third place-getters, pulling off what is now known as “a Jenny Graham.”
Last year’s winner Pumpkin Pie (Bobby El-Issa) was only a quarter of a length off Kopi Luwak. The stablesmates kicked away from the rest of the field and engaged in an intense battle in the straight but Kopi Luwak prevailed. Acquittal was two lengths behind in 3rd. Williams’ next best were O’Lordy in 6th and Chewbacca in 7th.
June Baker owns both Kopi Luwak and Pumpkin Pie and has an interest in Acquittal.
“Everyone involved in the Country Championships should take a bow,” she said when accepting her trophy. “It’s a wonderful initiative, it’s so much fun and I’ve met so many people."
Favourite Don’t Give A Damn finished a disappointing tenth, six and a half lengths off Kopi Luwak. He was one of the first to load and a barrier mishap in which an attendant was kicked delayed the race for five minutes and saw him stand in the gates for longer than usual. He also had to be reshod before the race.
“It’s difficult to assess everything now but it’s been a great carnival and we’re glad to be part of it,” Williams said. “I need to thank my staff and everyone who has helped me.”
Danny also scored another win in Race 5 with El Mo who had been balloted out of the Country Championships. It was his second win in just five starts.
He hasn’t decided what to do with his horses going forward and is enjoying the moment for now.
Kopi Luwak and Pumpkin Pie join Victorem and Awesome Pluck in the $500,000 Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick on Saturday, 7th April. Two more horses will earn their place in the rich race in tomorrow’s Central Districts Qualifier at Mudgee.