By Tony Megahey
Massively built gelding Kopi Luwak conceivably could have ended Danny Williams’ training and riding career, but all is forgiven when they combine for the $60,000 TAB Highway Handicap (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
A horrendous track accident the very first time he rode the powerhouse Snitzel protégé in February 2015 resulted in Danny suffering a shattered pelvis and multiple injuries that put him in hospital long term for two operations. A metal plate and pins were inserted such was the extent of Danny’s pelvic and lower body injuries.
Later the same year, Kopi Luwak broke down with career threatening tendon problems and it was two long years before he raced again.
And when the near 17 hands and 600 kg plus five-year-old came from near last for an impressive first-up win at Moruya two weeks ago, it was a tribute to Danny’s training prowess and patience.
Danny insists Kopi Luwak, named after the world’s most expensive coffee from Indonesia, hasn’t an ounce of malice.
“He’s just huge playful and excitable; just a freak accident- occupational hazard,” Danny explains.
“He was just too tall for me to get a leg into the stirrups and when I climbed on a bucket for more leverage, he shied, bucked and spun me high in the air. When I was coming down he bucked again and caught me full force in my lower body with all his weight. I knew I was in real serious trouble but it could have been worse and I’m back riding work and doing what I love.
“He’s not bad tempered or aggressive at all. He’s still like a big kid who doesn’t know his strength. Can you believe he threw his head about and broke my nose the other morning?! Just unlucky. But they love him in the stable and he can gallop; a real big motor. Anyway not many of us haven’t had accidents and falls in this business.”
Both Kopi Luwak and 11- time Highway winner Danny are doing what they do best onto the big stage at headquarters. If all goes as expected, Kopi Luwak is a potential Country Championship contender, set for the Goulburn leg at home. Likely so will improving stable-mate Acquittal who will be in the market also on Saturday after a recent Randwick Highway placing.
Kopi Luwak’s top weight of 59kg for Tye Angland is of no concern from an inside draw. His impressive frame will attract most focus in the Randwick enclosure, but he’s not just an imposing looker.
The long strider had shown Williams outstanding talent in track work and trials at Goulburn to debut in a Canterbury Park Maiden in December of 2015. Then after a close second he broke down. When Danny produced him first-up at Moruya after two years absence, in preference to a Randwick Highway and a Canberra race, it was no surprise he was the subject of a $7 into $3.30 plunge to favouritism. He’d worked brilliantly and had been fitted by jump-outs.
Kopi Luwak defied the normal racing pattern at tight and turning Moruya that favours on pace runners. Drawing the extreme outside in a 1010m dash, Kopi Luwak drifted back to near last but when let down by Rory Hutchings he exploded down the outside to win running away. All suggesting that his huge stride and finish will be perfectly compatible over 1400m and the long Randwick straight.
“Absolutely, he’ll have more time to settle and balance up out to 1400m and wind up,” Williams said. “He should race closer too than in that 1010m. He’s progressed since Moruya; he went really well in a jump-out down here on Tuesday morning.”
Kopi Luwak likely will share favouritism with the Rod Northam and Rob Thompson’s Remittance and the Dunn’s Vivid Pink off solid Doomben form.
All Highway contenders are focusing on the upcoming prestige Country Championships.