A birthday gift from his parents - Wayne and Connie - has ultimately led to a promising harness racing career. And after Monday's Wairarapa Harness Racing Club meeting at Tauherenikau Scott Stewart couldn't be happier with that present he received almost three years ago.
The 23-year-old drove his first winner at New Year Day's meeting behind the Peter Scaife trained Helicon. A race earlier he finished second behind another Scaife pacer, Miracle Mach.
"I'd never even driven a horse until I received their birthday present. It was a brilliant idea and one that I will always cherish," Christchurch-based Stewart said.
The Stewarts gave their son an all-expenses paid gift to undertake an amateur driving course. Their son loved it so much he couldn't wait to pursue a professional harness racing career.
"I was into my second year studying for a B.Com in agriculture at Lincoln University. My parents had owned horses in the past and not long after the course I made my mind up that this was the career path I wanted to pursue," Stewart said.
Stewart's father Wayne has been president of the Wairarapa Harness Racing Club just on a decade now and the best horse he has owned was seven win pacer ($66,095) Cullini. She was trained by Greg and Nina Hope at Kaiapoi.
In fact it was Stewart senior that secured drives for his son on Monday.
"We know Peter (Scaife) pretty well and Dad said to him that if he needed a driver, I would fly up. And that's what I did. I just want to thank Mark (Jones) and his great staff that let me fly back home for the drives. It was greatly appreciated and a day I will never forget.
"It was a huge thrill," the former Wairarapa College student said.
Within six months of doing the amateur course Stewart was working for Mark Purdon and Grant Payne at Rolleston. He has been with Jones for about 14 months now.
"Mark has been great. He got me all my licences and even though Regan (Todd) is the main junior driver Mark still gives me plenty of drives. I'm grateful to him for that. He's a good man to work for," Stewart said.
Stewart has now had 17 drives for a first, a second and a third.
On Monday he sat at the rear with Helicon before making a surge around the big bend approaching the home turn.
In the straight the 6-year-oldgelding was too strong in the sprint home beating stablemate, Elias Bromac (Zac Butcher) by half a head.
They paced the 2000m grass track mobile in 2:42.7 (mile rate: 2:10.9) with a last 800m sprint of 61.8 seconds.
It was Helicon's second win from 32 starts.
Christchurch born, but Wairarapa raised and educated Stewart, also said he owed a lot to his parents.
"They have been very supportive of me since day one. When I told them about my career change they didn't discourage me. I want to thank them for their loyalty. I am extremely grateful for what they have done for me - and I owe them a lot," the likeable 23-year-old said.
By Duane RANGER (editor)
Scott Stewart and Helicon winning at the Wairarapa Harness Racing Club's meeting on Monday January 1, 2012: