Samantha Ottley will have her first drive at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday night (September 12) thanks to the initiative of a trainer she has never met before.
Pukekohe horsewoman Paulette Screen will bring the 23-year-old Canterbury reinswoman north to drive one pacer and one trotter on the eight-race card.
“Paulette rang me out of the blue, and she was even trying to get more drives for me as well, but no-one came forward. Paulette said she liked my driving. That was really nice to hear because I really enjoy what I do.
“It will be my first drive around Cambridge Raceway and I’m grateful to Paulette for making that happen,” said Ottley who lives 10 minutes from Greenpark, which is near Motukarara.
Ottley will drive Screen’s 4-year-old Falcon Seelster 5-year-old, Classic Ambition in the fourth event – the $5,500 Charlie Blackwell Memorial mobile for maiden pacers.
Then three races later Ottley will take on her fellow junior drivers in the Raelyn Butler $6,000 Memorial handicap trot.
She will drive Screen’s 5-year-old Majestic Son mare, Regal Petite. She has won five of her 14 starts and is nicely handicapped at 10m.
Both horses are winning chances and Ottley said she excited about driving at Cambridge.
“It’s a track I’ve seen on TV and always wanted to drive at. I’m a South Island girl. It’s going to be great to head north and drive,” she said.
Ottley was born in Geraldine and educated at Geraldine High School.
Her first job was with South Canterbury trainer Murray Tapper. She had four years with him before joining Colin and Julie De Filippi’s atLincoln barn just over two years ago.
Ottley has had 70 wins ($498,225) in just over five seasons but is yet to open her account in 2013-2014. She has so far had 11 drives for five placings.
Last year was her most successful to date, winning 34 races and $249, 788.
Ottley said coming north would be a memorable moment in her career. She said she hoped it was as successful as her first drive.
“That was behind Mum’s (Denise) pacer Nigel Paul who won at the Kurow meeting at Oamaru. It was also my 18th birthday,” Ottley said.
She also rated her win behind the de Filippi trained Just Rose in last year’s Geraldine Cup as special.
“I really enjoyed winning my home-town race for Colin and Julie. They have been wonderful employers and have taught me so much.
“I am really enjoying working for them,” Ottley said.
Ottley said she was looking forward to giving her fellow Junior drivers some good opposition this season.
“I’d like to perform well against the Juniors. There are quite a few new names appearing this year. Hopefully my experience will help me against them,” she said.
The trip north will be a welcome escape for Ottley. She has been without power since the severe Spring storm struck parts of the South Island on Tuesday.
“It’s definitely a stepping stone for my career and one I’m looking forward to,” Ottley said.
By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)