Legendary trainer Keith Swan remembered at Winter Carnival of Cups

KEITH Swan was a mountain of a man who strode the northern racing scene like a colossus.

LEGACY: Tamworth trainer Sue Grills, Keith Swan's niece, will contest the Keith Swan Memorial at Gunnedah on Thursday.

LEGACY: Tamworth trainer Sue Grills, Keith Swan's niece, will contest the Keith Swan Memorial at Gunnedah on Thursday.

In a training career spanning 54 years, he trained well over 2000 winners and won 24 North and North West Districts Racing Association training premierships, before the N&NWDRA became the Hunter and North West Racing Association.

Swan, who passed away in 2003 aged 73, will be remembered on Thursday with the staging of the $20,000 XXXX Gold Keith Swan Memorial Benchmark 65 Handicap (1200m).

Swan was based at Somerton. He had taken out his training licence when he was only 19 and became the dominant trainer in northern NSW for more than a quarter of a century.

He won virtually every Cup race in northern NSW, a Ramornie Handicap at Grafton (with Indian Chief) and several Country Cups at Randwick.

Swan’s feature race winners, most carrying his distinctive colours of red, green diamond and white cap, included Tamworth Cup winner Drop A Note, Quirindi Cup winner Nyrangi, Allah’s Choice and Ramornie winner Indian Chief.

He also trained Armidale Cup and Coonamble Cup winner Merchant Bank, Tamworth Cup winners Lucky To Be, Sir Eden and Caissa, Kirby winner Real Silence, among others.

He was also renowned for his ability to cure broken down horses. Orange Kid came to him poorly but he turned him around to win a Moree Cup.

The same thing happened with Caissa, Real Silence and Merchant Bank. 

“Horses no one else wanted, but Keith bought then and got them going,” said Tony Thom, who raced Indian Chief and many other horses with Swan. We miss him dearly.”

“He was a genius, the old bloke. Caissa was a wired horse. They gave him 13 barrier trials before he raced. Keith taught him to go into the barriers with a hood on and then they’d take it off. It was perseverance and he then went on and won eight of his first nine races. 

“Real Silence was another one he got going. One of the big trainers in Sydney had given up on Indian Chief when Keith bought him and he won a Ramornie for us. Our Coquette bowed two tendons but he found a way to win sprint races with her too.”

Today a full field of 12 will line up in the Keith Swan Memorial (1200m), with the likes of Cocktail Time (Peter Mills) and Habsburg (Wayne Oakenfull) great chances.

Sue Grills, Swan’s niece, also has a runner – Market Guru.