Brooke Sweeney could be seen smiling from ear-to-ear on Friday night after partnering Pretty Possum to victory in Heat 13 of the Inglis 55 Second Challenge.
It was a grin of achievement, satisfaction and beating the odds, just as her mount did, having defied a betting drift from $8 to $15. That wasn’t the only similarity between horse and rider – both were first-up from a spell with the Russell Osborne trained mare not having raced since August and Sweeney off the metropolitan scene from last October.
It was on Berrigan Cup Day (October 29) when trialling horses after the last race that the 22-year-olds horse veered off the track and left Sweeney with a broken left fibula and a ruptured calf muscle, breaking her leg and leaving her out of the saddle for three months.
“I just wanted to get off the couch, I’m a pretty active and independent person but after lots of physio, swimming and running it came good – but a month ago I couldn’t even run,” Sweeney explained.
Brooke is the older sister of fellow apprentice Sally, who has ridden in over 250 races and recently transferred her apprenticeship to Queensland. It’s been a rough few months for the Sweeney family who hail from the small country town of Jerilderie in New South Wales, with Sally also having been out of the saddle for five months requiring surgery on her tibia plateau.
“The day Sally got her clearance to ride was pretty much the day I fell off – we’ve ridden in races against each other and sometimes bet milkshakes on who beats who,” laughed Sweeney.
Brooke would find out just how hard it was to get a riding clearance herself, only finding out on Tuesday evening stewards would accept her engagement aboard Pretty Possum.
“I had ridden her in all her trials and knew Russell had her spot on but until I rode my first winner back at Corowa on the Tuesday the powers to be weren’t too keen on letting me ride back in the city just yet,” revealed Sweeney.
Jumping straight to the lead from an outside barrier stall, the seven-year-old mare ran rivals ragged and held off the challenge from odds-on favourite Lady Esprit in the tightest of finishes. It was Sweeney and Pretty Possum’s second win together at The Valley.
“She (Pretty Possum) is so quick and takes the tight corners so well plus the StrathAyr suites her and personally I absolutely love it – it’s one of my favourite tracks”
“I love to get out there at a million miles per hour in the 955 metres races it’s a huge adrenaline rush,” added Sweeney.
It must be in the blood – Sweeney’s father Phil trained Sweet Emily to win three races at The Valley and holds the 1000 metre track record. She is currently in foal to Sizzling.
Sweeney was apprenticed to her father for seven months while also spending time under John and Chris Ledger and Brian Cox but currently resides at Flemington with Leon and Troy Corstens.
“It’s a different pace in the city for a country girl like me and sometimes I just have to get back to the country and get away from it for a while but it’s a great step for my career while I have my three kilogram claim,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney has ridden 105 winners and is hoping to raise that tally on Friday night when she partners her father’s horse Brightly Goes.
“He should run really well she has won her last two starts and is on the way up,” revealed Sweeney.
Brightly Goes runs in the Independent Turf Services Handicap at 10pm.