Having paid tribute to Keith Banks and others such as Wayne Harris and Herbie Eveleigh I thought it was about time I recorded an encomium to my good friend Hilton Cope?
Featured Image: Hilton Cope with Ken Howard at White Park Races, Scone in 1976
It might have been an inauspicious beginning? The following is taken directly from Harley Walden’s erudite treatise on Keith Banks:
“One thing that will live in Banks’ memory will be his first ride in a race; it was a sensation, at Warwick Farm in March 1959. Hilton Cope’s stirrup broke in a packed field; Noel McGrowdie’s mount came down over Cope and Golden Grove, piloted by then 16-year-old apprentice Banks, crashed on top of both. Banks was admitted to Liverpool Hospital with a broken thigh and pelvis, broken arm and dislocated shoulder. He was in hospital for six months and out of the saddle for a year”.
From there it was upwards and onwards for Hilton Cope. He enjoyed an illustrious career in Australia, France and Ireland with some detours via India and elsewhere. I first learned of Hilton’s prowess from Tom Flynn at Oakleigh Stud in the Widden Valley. The Cope family used to holiday at Oakleigh on a regular basis. They produced very fond memories and a fabulous early education.
I spent many very productive times with Hilton on the Scone Race Club, Upper Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association, ‘Kelvinside’ and myriad stallion syndicates; mostly at Yarraman Park but also including ‘Bletchingly’ at Widden. Hilton stuck with it and has eventually struck ‘gold’ with ‘I Am Invincible’ at Yarraman Park.
I will leave the rest to professional Johnny Tapp who recorded all the detail in his following accolade.
I was there the day at Randwick when Hilton won the 1970 1600m Fernhill Handicap on ‘Gunsynd’. I’ll never forget it. ‘Gunsynd’ lumped 60kg (9st 4lb) on a bog heavy track. Bill Wehlow was the trainer then. I was watching from just above the winner’s stall when Hilton unsaddled the ‘exhausted’ great grey. Gunsynd’s sides were heaving! It was an inspiring performance and a harbinger of greater things ahead.