A long range plan to tackle The Hotham is set to kick-start the training career of Gold Coast based trainer Josh Sweeney.
In Friday’s rich race for battlers, Sweeney (pictured right) will saddle Mental As Anything, which will be his very first runner as a licenced trainer.
Sweeney, 38, hatched the plan a year ago after watching the inaugural Hotham.
“I actually watched the Hotham on the couch last year,’’ Sweeney said. “What a fantastic idea for a race and with decent prize money for the battlers.”
“I thought it would be a terrific way for me to start my training career. Everyone needs a kick along and if I could have a runner in the Hotham I thought it might get me in the spotlight a bit and possibly get my name out there.’’
Sweeney aimed to have two runners, but another horse he tried to buy was retired. He eventually found Mental As Anything, which cost him and a group of mates $4,500. The mare only has to finish in the first 10 and connections will get a return of $3,000.
There were a few nervous moments for Sweeney leading up to the big Ballarat Maiden.
Fellow Gold Coast based trainer Ben Hull was listed as the nominated trainer because Sweeney’s licence was not yet approved.
The paperwork was only signed off on Monday, which will allow him to be in the limelight and chase a share of the $75,000 prize money.
“I’ve got mates from high school in the horse and they were all behind the idea. The majority of them are coming to Ballarat and the ‘old man’ is also coming up for the race.’’
The ‘old man’ Sweeny is referring to happens to be legendary ACT jockey Kevin Sweeney, who retired three years ago with around 1300 winners to his credit.
Josh was too heavy to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, with rich racing bloodlines it didn’t surprise Kevin that Josh chose to work with thoroughbreds.
“It’s pretty exciting and we’ll be there on Friday to support Josh,’’ Kevin said. “He’s been around horses since he could walk and worked with some brilliant trainers.
“He was always going to be too big to be a jockey and this is something he’s always wanted to do. He’s very dedicated and I have every confidence he can make a success of it.’’
Josh has worked for some of the top trainers – Peter Snowden, Mark Kavanagh, Keith Dryden and David Van Dyke.
Who knows if Josh will reach the heights of his former mentors? But he’s a battler and he’s having a crack and The Hotham will be his launch pad.