John Hay came within a head of ruining Ineka Lee’s big day at Oamaru yesterday.
Hay and his drive, Good Deed, did their best to hold Lee and Franco Nate, their stablemate, out in the third event at Oamaru on Sunday – but Lee, with a little more horsepower up her sleeve, shot along the passing lane to not only score the victory, but also record her first winning drive.
The 27-year-old Canterbury reinswoman has worked for Hay, who is also her partner, at his Ashburton stables since her College work experience days - back in the fourth form.
“I was 13 when I first started working for John, so it’s been a long time - and then on Sunday he almost denied me my first win,’’ Lee said.
“I thought he was actually going to hang on and win but his horse was a bit light on work going into the race and tied up in the last 50m.
“It’s been a long-time coming but it’s great to get that first win out of the way.
“I actually thought I was going to win behind my first drive at Addington - that was a while ago.’’
That first drive came just 10 starts ago when she finished a brave second on Daughtry Bromac at Addington.
“John thought I should get my licence since I knew the horses pretty well and drive a lot of them at the trials and workouts, I never really wanted to get it but now that I’ve had a taste of winning I want more.
“I think my next drive will be behind him (Franco Nate) again, I know him pretty well.
“The owners – the ‘Two Eye Cee’ Syndicate are great people and have been loyal owners of John’s for years.’’
Franco Nate trailed Good Deed throughout Sunday’s $7,000 PGG Wrightson maiden pace.
He won going away in 3:24.8 (mile rate for the 2600m stand: 2:06.7), with final 800m and 400m bursts of 58.2 and 27.8 seconds.
It was the black 3-year-old Live Or Die gelding’s first win in two starts.
Lee also ran second with him on debut at Ashburton on June 1.
But Lee, who has one standardbred and one thoroughbred in training, is no stranger to winning.
She’s also trained three galloping winners – the first being Hundred Pipers at Riccarton in May 2011.
“I love thoroughbreds, I love the challenge of getting a flighty horse and training him or her into an equine athlete.
“I’ve broken a bone in my foot and can’t ride again until I get it operated on.
“At one stage I had five gallopers in work, but it’s all harness at John’s now.
“He has a strong team. We’ve got 15 in at the moment. The best of them going around would be Jimmy Johnstone.’’
Lee was born in Nelson and educated at Waimea College before relocating to Ashburton and Ashburton College in the fourth form (Year 10).
“I used to ride hacks but never knew or wanted to know anything about harness racing until I went to the Ashburton trots one day…I loved it.
“I originally mucked out boxes for galloping trainer Shane Marr but it wasn’t long after I got work experience with John.
“I left school in the sixth form (Year 12), so I’ve been with John 13 or 14 years now. I love working with standardbreds.
“They are beautiful animals, but I’m also a thoroughbred girl as well, I just love horses.
For the record - the Hay quinella in Lee’s most memorable race, paid just $3.50.
They were first and second favourites.
Franco Nate was bred by Spreydon Lodge.
He is the first foal out of the un-raced Courage Under Fire mare, Neversaynever Franco.
By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)