Day At The Track

Michelle shooting the lights out

01:00 PM 04 Dec 2019 NZDT
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Michelle Phillips,Harness racing
Michelle Phillips’ decision to make a sporting career of harness racing is paying off
Cobram Harness Racing Club photo

A personal milestone for Michelle Phillips has affirmed the effervescent Victorian horsewoman's decision to pursue harness racing ahead of her other sporting interests.

The 22-year-old recently drove her 50th winner, and with her family background was probably always going to end up in harness racing, but she admits competitive basketball captured her love for several years.

"I'd played basketball when I was growing up at Warragul in Gippsland and was lucky enough to get a position at Seda College while I was completing Year 11 and 12," she said.

"The main emphasis of the college is basketball with the Melbourne United Club and Basketball Victoria working together to further develop the sport."

Phillips represented Victoria a few times, mainly as a point guard, and also competed in school carnivals against other States.

But as a graduate of the Gippsland Harness Training Centre at Warragul (where she was selected as the inaugural Harness Racing Victoria-Community College Gippsland trots intern), harness racing was never far away. And ironically, her basketball interest was probably what eventually brought her back to the trots.

"Then when I finished Year 12, Deb and Gary Quinlan, from Drouin West, offered me a part-time job at their stables, I jumped at it - probably because I had renewed enthusiasm after the two-year break," she said.

Phillips grew up around harness racing, with both her father Ken and grandfather Max being Clerks of the Course for many years at local trots meetings.

"While I was at the Harness Racing Training Centre I had 12 months of learning everything about the industry and spent time in a number of leading stables here including Alison and Chris Alford, Anton Golino, Andy and Kate Gath, and with Mark Purdon in New Zealand," Phillips said.

"A highlight was helping Mark with the preparation and care of Smolda, leading up to him winning the Inter Dominion," she said.

Phillips drove her first winner in April last year at Ballarat when successful at her eighth race drive on Our Sir Oliver, trained by Norm McVitty. She then followed the April with with two further victories in May with the same horse at the same track!

In her first season she finished with 10 wins and 26 placings. Last season she improved with 23 wins and 62 placings and now looks set for her best-ever with 18 wins and 30 placings to date.

She landed her 50th winner at Maryborough last week on Lets Went for Bendigo trainer Laurie Wills.

"I was absolutely stoked, and it was great to have the luck continue for a bit at Mildura the next night when I got home on Rocknroll Legend. But it was soured a little bit later in the night cos I got a suspension," Phillips said.

Now attached to the successful Chris Svanosio barn, Phillips is busy helping with the stable's shift from their Bendigo base to a Romsey property where Svanosio's partner Elizabeth MacLean is established.

"We are all looking forward to it because it's a magnificent complex," she said.


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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