If she was to only win one more race this season, Sam Ottley wouldn’t be too concerned as long as that win came in tonight’s Darren DeFilippi Memorial at Addington Raceway.
New Zealand’s leading junior driver has achieved almost everything she possibly can in her time in the junior ranks – and has one hand firmly on her first national premiership with a two win lead over Sailesh Abernethy with just weeks remaining in the season.
But a win in tonight’s Darren DeFilippi would come with more sentimental value than anything else considering the young horsewoman’s close connection with DeFilippi’s parents, Colin and Julie.
“Colin and Julie have been incredible to me since the day I started working for them,’’ Ottley said.
“It would be a huge honour to win the race considering how bigger role they have played in my success.’’
DeFilippi was tragically killed in a car accident while on his way home from the Orari races in 1995, leaving the harness racing community reeling at the loss of such a talented young horseman.
The race named in his honour is a high priority on every junior driver’s list of goals for a season – and although only a few get the chance to win it – just the chance to drive in a race of such stature is regarded as a true privilege by those afforded the opportunity.
“People are talking about it (the race) months in advance, everyone wants to be a part of it and have a chance at winning it.’’
Ottley has picked up the drive on exciting trotter Jayceekay in the event – giving her a royal chance of achieving her goal considering the abundance of ability the John Boylan-trained mare possesses.
“I had a drive of her at the workouts last weekend just to get a feel for her.
“She’s certainly got plenty of ability and the speed she has is quite incredible.
“I only gave her a quiet workout but she really impressed me.
“In saying that though it won’t be easy, it’s a big field of trotters and there are plenty of chances.”
Phil Williamson holds a strong hand in the race with both Monty Python and The Silver Fox while Aile Rouge was impressive enough winning last week to warrant respect.
Jean Sebastien, who will be driven by Jeremy Markham who also has a close association with the DeFilippi family, is another chance in the wide open contest.
As she looks to extend her lead on Abernethy, Ottley is grateful for the opportunity given to her by John and Robert Dunn who took her on loan from the DeFilippi’s in an effort to help her cause.
“I’ve really enjoy working with them, I had never worked with horses on the beach so I’ve been enjoying that aspect of it.
“Just trying something new and seeing another way to training horses has been really beneficial.
“And they have been great at giving me drives too.’’
Six of Ottley’s nine drives at tonight’s meeting come from the Dunn stable including realistic winning chances; Billy The Bus, Madiba Magic, Johnny Jet and Nikola.
By Matt Markham (Harness Racing New Zealand)