Lillian Cooney has retired from the committee of Thoroughbred Breeders Victoria after 30 years’ service to the industry.
A Life Member and pioneer of TBV, Cooney is winding back knowing the association is in good hands with the younger generation of breeders. “Our first TBV meeting was at the Flemington Showgrounds in February 1985,” she recalled. “Peter Gook was the secretary and back then we were known as the Victorian Breeders’ Club.”
Thoroughbred Breeders’ Victoria president James O’Brien thanked Cooney for all her support and expertise. “On behalf of the committee and members of TBV, I would like to express our gratitude to Lillian. She was the Honorary Legal Officer for many years and Vice President at one stage as well being a long-serving committee member. She was made a TBV Life Member in 2007.”
Lillian is from Irish stock and her family have been involved in racing for generations. Her husband Barney hasn’t been active in racing administration but has always shown an interest in the sport.
“My grandparents met at the Echuca Cup,” she recalled. “As a young girl, I used to run down to the local SP bookie with grandma’s bets.
“It must have rubbed off. In Sydney for our honeymoon, we went to the Easter Carnival at Randwick and backed Indian Summer who won that year’s AJC Oaks.
“When the kids were growing up, Barney’s mother used to babysit during the Melbourne spring carnival until they were old enough to go on the final (children’s) day.
“I was born at Punt Road, St Kilda and we have lived at Elsternwick for 50 years so I haven’t moved very far. Back in the early days, you could hear horses walking the streets to Caulfield.”
Away from racing, Barney and Lillian carved out successful careers in law and politics as well as bringing up four children.
Lillian specialised in the areas of property and trusts and commercial, industrial and administrative law. She established the first all-female legal partnership of Gill Kane in Melbourne in 1963, together with Deidre Fitzgerald. The firm merged with Maurice Blackburn Cashman in March 2005.
Her other roles included Deputy Chancellor of RMIT University and memberships of VCAT and the Law Institute of Victoria.
Barney grew up in the Victorian Mallee during the depression years and was educated at the University of Melbourne before becoming a barrister. In 1984, he was elected to the Australian Senate as a Labor representative for Victoria and held the seat until 2002.
Lillian has bred and raced numerous winners over the years but none better than Breadeater (Reindeer). “She was bred in New Zealand and Tony Cavanagh suggested I buy her,” Lillian said. “Bread Eater was trained by George Hanlon and won races at Flemington, Moonee Valley and Caulfield.”
Lillian had shares in Century and Breadeater foaled the stakes winners Century Toast and Nonpareils to the champion stallion who stood at Mornmoot Stud.
Prioress also brings back fond memories. “Buying her was a stroke of luck at the yearling sales,” Lillian recalled. “She was the last lot of the day and my friend and I got her cheaply.”
Prioress (Cardinal) foaled the dam of Sir Topaz who won four races including one at Sandown when trained by Robert Smerdon. “He’s by Rustic Amber and we sent him to Charlie Hughes in Queensland,” Lillian said. “He’s still at stud and siring winners up there.”
Another of their successful mares was Grey Haze (Grey Ghost) who was recommended by Cavanagh and bought from the legendary horseman George Smith. She won four races in Melbourne and was runner-up in a Queensland Oaks and Edward Manifold Stakes.
Lillian has kept a link with Grey Haze through the mare’s grand-daughter Nenagh who has a yearling filly by Dash For Cash.. “It’s a predominately a family of grey horses,” Lillian explained. “And I would love to win the Greys Plate at Flemington with one of her descendents.”
– Karl Patterson
BARNEY & LILLIAN COONEY