Jo McKinnon Column

‘I loved working with the horses and going to the races’

Katherine Coleman is one of the most impressive and respected young people in Australian racing and on Tuesday the 30-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough moment saddling her first winner as co-trainer with Peter Moody when Runsir (Fighting Sun) won at Pakenham. 

It didn’t take the new partnership long to double their tally, with Insulation (Intello) scoring over 1740 metres at Sale on Wednesday. 

Professional, focussed and passionate, Coleman wasn’t out wildly celebrating the milestone that night, instead she was at home in bed resting to rise for the 2.45am alarm which was set for the next morning.

“Everyone said did you celebrate and I said absolutely not, I knew I had a big day driving to Sale for the races the next day,” said Coleman.

From a non-racing background, Coleman grew up in Bunbury, Western Australia and after an introduction to horses through friends that lived nearby, she got the bug.

“I didn’t have a horsey background growing up. I had worked at a pacing stable doing work after school and in the holidays with Kim Prentice. We had so much fun there, I absolutely loved it. It wasn’t work for me. I loved working with the horses and going to the races. I fell in love with it not realising at the time I would end up doing what I’m doing now.”

When she finished school Coleman was enrolled at university to study physiotherapy.

“I did six months and realised how much I missed working with the horses. Mum and dad probably thought I was crazy saying I was going to drop out of uni and do horses but they had my back the whole time and were fully supportive of it,” she said.

So with the green light to pursue her dream Coleman sought out a local thoroughbred trainer to work with.

“I started working for a small trainer that we knew through our local pony club. They were brilliant there and taught me to ride track work and showed me the ropes and got me started.”

During those early days in the west she admired the feats of champion mare Black Caviar (Bel Esprit) as she took all before her on the national and international stage.

“I remember getting up in the middle of night to watch her run at Royal Ascot and it was amazing to see this superstar horse and trainer. The hype around them was amazing. If you had told me that in ten years’ time I would be in a training partnership with Peter Moody I would most certainly not have believed you.”

Coleman knew that to even contemplate reaching those dizzy heights in the training ranks she would eventually have to move east and gain experience with bigger stables.

Whilst working and growing up in WA, I would always see the big stables over east – everyone knows this is where the best horses and trainers are and if I wanted to be the best I had to work with the best.”

She secured a role with the Robert Smerdon stable at Caulfield for what was initially meant to be a three-month stint.  

“Three months turned into ten years. The more involved I got the more I learned and loved it. I had some amazing opportunities to travel and work all over Australia during that time.”

Working at Caulfield also meant she regularly crossed paths with Peter Moody.

“I had never worked for him, but he was such a character everyone knew him. He was always the first to say good morning when you walked through the tunnel in the morning.”

From Caulfield, Coleman’s next move was to work at Flemington for Chris Waller and it was during this stint that the opportunity of a lifetime came up.

“Peter was making a return to training and someone recommended me to him as an assistant trainer, so when he approached and said: I think you and I need to have a chat Darland I said yes straight away.”

“It all had a sense of timing about it and it worked out perfectly. That was three-and-a-half years ago when getting set up at Pakenham and we haven’t looked back.”

The significance of working alongside a horseman the calibre of Moody is not lost on Coleman.

“I think he is the best mentor that I could ask for. He’s so down to earth and easy to talk to. He has such a willingness to  help people that want to learn. He’s passionate about teaching people and engaging with them about the industry.”

He has an aura about him, you would go to war for him. He is one of those amazing people that make people want to work for him and make him proud. When he is there backing you and believing in you – it makes you believe in yourself,” she said.

With their first two winners in training partnership now on the board, there’s much bigger things to try to achieve together and a horse called I Wish I Win (Savabeel) will be sure to take Coleman to the sort of heights she could only dream of back in the pony club days at Bunbury.

The ultra talented five-year-old kicked off his upcoming preparation with a jump-out at Pakenham on Wednesday. 

“It all feels pretty surreal at the moment. He’s such a beautiful horse to have in the stable and we are very lucky to have him,” she said. 

“Mark and Pippa Chittick and the whole crew involved in him have been so supportive of the partnership and me coming aboard. They sent me a video on Tuesday morning saying good luck and that they would be cheering on. When you forge those types of relationships with connections it means so much more when the horses have success.”

Coleman is in for one heck of a ride over the next few months and is a name we will certainly be seeing and hearing plenty more of.

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