Meet The Locals: Corey Brown, Melbourne Cup Winning Jockey

A gifted jockey and one of Australia’s best, Corey’s racing career spanned nearly 30 years.

From collecting his first winner’s trophy at Kempsey in 1991, he went on to win around 3000 races, including the Melbourne Cup twice, in 2009 on Shocking, and 2017 on Rekindling.

I met Corey through the racing industry about 25 years ago. My husband Greg was a jockey manager and my brother-in-law, Wayne was a jockey, and we have been great friends ever since.

The last two years have been tough for Corey, following a serious fall in 2019, which forced him into early retirement. But he has kept his positive attitude and love for the sport, and has now turned his attention to inspiring and mentoring young jockeys through his newly-established academy, Good SkillZ.

I chatted with Corey about the highs and lows of his incredible career and how it feels to win the Melbourne Cup.

Hi Corey, Greg and I always love welcoming you to Singleton. What do you like about coming out here, apart from our fabulous company of course?

Singleton is beautiful and we love visiting. It’s a great town and so relaxed. People are really nice and down-to-earth. I grew up in a similar – although not quite as big – town, Wingham on the coast, so coming to Singleton feels like coming home.

How did you become a jockey?

I was born and bred into the game. My father was a jockey, and my grandfather was what they call an amateur rider and would ride at amateur meetings.

I could ride from a young age but wasn’t seriously interested in being a jockey until I was about 14. I was dyslexic and wanted to leave school early, so the moment I learned I was allowed to leave to become a jockey, I was off and gone, never to be seen again.

You won the Melbourne Cup twice, how did that feel?

This is one of the questions I am asked most, and probably one of the hardest questions to answer. It’s a surreal feeling like you are in a dream. It’s hard to describe but it’s so amazing.

The best way I can explain it is this way. If I could bottle the feeling that I had when I won the two Melbourne Cups and give it to you, it would be priceless.

Would you say winning those two races were the best moments in your career?

Winning the first Melbourne Cup on Shocking was very good, because the year before I’d been beaten by a centimetre and it was a nightmare watching that replay, over and over again. Winning the following year was like a huge relief.

The second time that I won was great because I’ve got three daughters, and they were all down there with their partners to enjoy the race. Just to be able to share that emotion with them was amazing.

Another very special moment for me, and one of the biggest days I’ve ever had on the racecourse, was when I ran second to Damien Oliver in the Melbourne Cup in 2002. His brother Jason (also a jockey) had passed away just a few days before the Cup, and Damien came out and won and I’ve never been so happy to run second. I am getting goosebumps thinking about it now, it was a meant-to-be moment.

What did you enjoy most about being a jockey?

I really enjoyed the adrenaline, the competition and the game itself. But it’s not just about riding a horse, it’s been an amazing lifestyle for me. I’ve travelled all over the world and met great people. It’s hard to put into words, but if I had to really narrow it down, I would say that the brotherhood of the racing game has been gold.

How about the hardest thing?

That’s easy! Losing weight and injuries. Jockeys get to know their bodies back to front, it’s crazy. I lost nine kilos in a week once. My wife and I had a party trick, I could get on the scales after a Saturday night dinner and be able to tell you to the 100 grams on either side of what my weight was going to be.

You have had a truly remarkable career – what was the strongest pull for you, a love of horses or a love of competition?

I always really enjoyed the competitive side of horse racing. I was just a typical boy I suppose, I loved the adrenaline and the game itself.

I loved the horses too and always respected them. But to be honest, it was hard being an apprentice because all my friends were out being normal teenagers, but I was stuck in the stable, getting up at 3 am to muck out the boxes and feed the horses. I didn’t realise how much I loved horses until I was older.

Horses are amazing, it’s as if they can sense things before they happen. Like humans, all horses are different. Some are not as smart as others, but the really smart ones are very switched on, they can sense you when you’re starting to panic if that makes sense.

They are incredibly responsive and they’ve got this instant reaction. For example, some of them jump so fast from the barrier when it crashes open that you nearly fall off the back of them.

You had serious injuries from your fall at the Queensland Derby in 2019. It’s been a long and painful road to recovery, including spinal fusion surgery. How are you feeling now?

At the moment, I’ve got two rods and sixteen screws holding them together until the bone actually fuses. It’s very uncomfortable and I can’t wait for them to be taken out, which should be in about twelve months. The doctor’s say I will lose between 30 – 35% of the movement, but touch wood, I am still walking so I really haven’t got much to complain about. Every doctor who has looked at the break has been blown away by the fact that I am still walking. So yeah, it could be a whole lot better but it could be a whole lot worse as well.

I am not allowed to ride again, not even to sit on a horse, it’s too dangerous, but I am happy with that. I can look back on my career and I feel blessed, so it’s all good. I’ve got a great family and had a lot of support, and I just keep moving forward. I’ve always had a positive attitude. You know there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

You are still involved in the game, as a commentator for Channel 7, and you recently set up Good SkillZ to mentor young jockeys – can you tell me a bit more about that?

I am already mentoring a few jockeys and I would like eventually to have my own Apprentice Academy. I love to help the young kids along and I’ve always put a lot of time and effort in trying to guide them and help them as much as I can. It’s just always been a passion so I’m going to put my head down and really get into that over the next couple of years.

Thanks so much, Corey. It was always such a thrill to watch you ride and it’s great that you are putting all this incredible horse racing experience to good use by helping others achieve their goals.

Follow Corey on Instagram and check out his Good SkillZ website.

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