Josh Aiken celebrated his 21st birthday last month and received the ultimate belated present at the trots on Friday night.
The rising-star young reinsman drove Eljaykay Phoenix to victory in the two-year-old trotting males’ Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series final at Tabcorp Park (pictured below).
It was Aiken’s first Group 1 winner and it gave him the ultimate buzz.
“It felt awesome coming around the home turn. That’s just unreal. I can’t explain how good it feels,” he said immediately after the race.
Aiken’s father David trains Eljaykay Phoenix at his Avenel property, where Josh plays an integral role.
There’s no doubting young Aiken’s future in the cart should he elect to make a long-term career out of harness racing. He’s cool under pressure and his style in the sulky is reminiscent of a professional reinsman many years his senior.
Aiken is studying equine science at Charles Sturt University but has deferred after a semester to focus on his driving during a busy period for the stable.
“It’s something I’m definitely going to be getting back into but I deferred after the first semester to focus on the Breeders and the Sires. It’s a pretty busy time,” he said.
After completing his Year 12 studies Aiken spent some time working at the family stables before travelling for 18 months.
“I’ve been back working full time at the stables for just over 12 months now,” he said.
“I did a little bit when I’d finished Year 12 but then spent some time on a travelling holiday.”
Aiken said the stable’s focus had quickly turned to the Breeders Crown after the weekend’s Vicbred finals, stable-star Lennytheshark, who took out the four-year-old pacing males' final on Saturday night, one of the key competitors for the August features.
“Dad still doesn’t think he’s got him 100 per cent fit, so it’s scary to think he still might have improvement on what he’s already done,” he said.
Eljaykay Phoenix will head towards the Redwood Carnival at Maryborough on July 20.
By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing Australia)