Darwin connections take out leading trainer and jockey honours at iconic Birdsville Races

Returning home to Darwin next week after completing the Simpson Desert Racing Carnival circuit

Renowned Northern Territory trainer Phillip Cole and his star apprentice jockey Emma Lines are still riding high following their success at the 141st Birdsville Races where the Darwin based duo took out the Nutrien Ag Solutions Leading Trainer and Leading Jockey of the 2023 Birdsville Races Carnival.

Top honours at Birdsville are not a new experience for the Phillip Cole Racing team with Cole taking out five wins including the coveted TAB Birdsville Cup in September 2022.

The come-from-behind victory in the headline race in 2022 saw jockey Robert Faehr and Phillip Cole secure their first TAB Birdsville Cup win with thoroughbred Saccharo.

“I had hoped to bring Saccharo back again this year for another tilt at the TAB Birdsville Cup however a minor injury got in the way of that happening.  If all goes to plan for next year I’d love to bring Saccharo back and hopefully do it all again,” said Phillip Cole.

“I love the Birdsville Races – and this year the great weather and track conditions made it all the more fun.  I had three wins as well as some placings and it was great to see so many winnings shared across most trainers.  Most of us got something out of making the trip out to Birdville which is always great to see.  And our new apprentice jockey Emma Lines also did us proud, notching up Leading Jockey of the meet on her first time at an interstate event.  That’s no mean feat at just 17 years of age and with only 9 months of racing under her belt.  She’s got a bright future ahead of her.”

Of her time at the iconic Birdsville Races Emma Lines said, “I was excited to take out the Nutrien Ag Solutions Leading Jockey award at such a well-known event.  It’s a bucket list event and there were jockeys with a lot more experience than me, so I was happy to get the recognition and do so well. I loved the event and hope I can come out again next year with Phil.”

New to the world of horse racing Emma only recently started her career as an apprentice jockey – signing on with Phillip Cole Racing as a 16-year-old late last year and riding her first race on December 9th.

“I was lucky enough to win my first ever race last year.  I’m loving my apprenticeship with Phil and learning a lot.  This trip we’re on now in Outback Queensland has been a real eye opener and it was great to experience different styles of racing in such a beautiful setting.  We have dirt tracks in Darwin but there’s nothing like the sandy, dusty tracks in the Simpson Desert,” added Emma Lines.

“I didn’t grow up around racing – my family aren’t from the industry – but I’ve always loved horses.  I started riding at Pony Club in Darwin and my coach there was a jockey.  She helped me get into racing four years ago and I started off strapping and riding horses off track before Phil took me on as an apprentice last year.  I’m loving it.”

Lines’ father David Lines who is a firefighter from Darwin also made the bucket list trip with Emma for his first Birdsville Races saying, “We had an awesome time and I was so proud of how well Emma rode.  It’s been an unforgettable experience – I’d love to come back again.”

The Phil Cole racing team travelled the furthest of all trainers and jockeys to compete in the Birdsville Races – also doing the full Simpson Desert Racing Carnival circuit of Betoota the weekend before the Birdsville Races, Bedourie the weekend following and Winton this coming weekend before making the return trip to Darwin next week.

Capping off a successful fortnight on Saturday at Bedourie, the final meet of the Simpson Desert Racing Carnival, Emma added to her Birdsville accolade and also took out the leading rider of the Carnival. Emma collected five wins across the four race days putting her one clear of rival Gemma Steele (4 wins).

“It’s been a successful Simpson Desert Racing Carnival for us.  We’ve picked up some great wins and had a lot of fun on the road.  And I’ve been able to re-home some of our horses that were struggling with the humidity and conditions in Darwin and are better suited to the dry climate in Outback Queensland.  I’ve sold some to Country Queensland Trainers and look forward to following their progress in their new environment,” said Phillip Cole.

The total prize pool for the Simpson Desert Racing Carnival, which includes the Birdsville Races as well as the Betoota and Bedourie Races, now sits at a record $452,000 – making it the richest two weeks of racing in Outback Queensland.

Punters across Australia were also able to experience all the action from the Birdsville Races from the comfort of their own homes thanks to a renewed national telecast deal between the Races and Sky Racing. The partnership saw the full 13-race line-up televised into homes nationally via Sky Racing.

The Birdsville Races are proudly supported by the Queensland Government, through Tourism and Events Queensland, and features on the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar.

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