Day At The Track
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Heathcote harness racing driver Tayla French is riding the crest of a wave at the moment and the hard working 22-year-old thoroughly deserves her success. Somehow Tayla juggles working part-time at a Bendigo stable three or four mornings a week, a job as a medical receptionist in her hometown, helping her father Terry prepare his team and somehow fits in race driving a couple of nights a week. "It does get a bit hectic, but I'm enjoying it. It usually all falls into place so that's all good," Tayla said. And over the past 10 days, the junior concession reinswoman has been in sensational form on the racetrack. Competing at Shepparton, Kilmore and Bendigo meetings, French has chalked up five wins and is well on the way on improving on her debutante 2018-19 season of eight victories and 40 placings. "It has been great. I think I'm getting better at reading races and if things don't initially go to plan, I don't get fazed and work out then what might be best," she said. "The highlight was obviously getting my first winning race double at Kilmore - the first leg was with Nuclear Nikky (Auckland Reactor-Nickle Miss (Grinfromeartoear), prepared by dad. He's only had the horse for a fortnight and that was her first start, but she did trial nicely four days before. "The other Kilmore success was Blissfull Mind (Blissfull Hall-Mind Dance (Megamind), for Charlie Farrugia, who I had won on at his previous start." French said despite wanting to join the police force at one stage, it was "probably always going to be horses" after studying Year 12. "I can remember driving fast work for dad as a kid and it just continued on from there. When I made the decision to pass on the police force, for the time being, it meant commit to harness racing and that's what I'm wanting to do," she said. French started driving only in August of last year and three weeks in, landed her maiden winner. "Dad has been fantastic in teaching me things about the industry. My mum Kym's unfortunately allergic to horses, but she gives me heaps of support, too," she said. "l work part-time in Bendigo for local trainer-driver Chris Svanosio, and he also has been a terrific help." The winning streak by French kicked off at Bendigo last Tuesday week when she was successful for trainer Jess Tubbs on Illawong Mustang (Mach Three-Light In Every Day (Artiscape). The following night at Shepparton, the youngster drove a well-judged race for her father Terry to land the money on Joeys Hangover (Well Said-Without Guile (Art Major). French then headed down the road to the same venue seven days later to team up with an old favorite in 12-year-old Lights And Music (Jet Laag-Computerize (Stand Together) and they posted the gelding's 28th career win for trainer Colin Godden. Her memorable double at Kilmore was last Thursday. Five-year-old daughter of exciting sire Auckland Reactor In Nuclear Nikky had to do it the hard way after racing in the death-seat for the majority of the race. "I got through early from barrier 11 to land in the one-one, but then the horse outside the leader went to the front so I was posted. We only just go there, but she did it tough and deserved it," French said. Blissfull Mind wrapped up the double for her. The gelding led until the bell, took cover, but then finished full of running in the latter stages to get the prize. French said she used to enjoy playing other sports including netball and cricket. "I just don't have the time now. But I'm happy with what I'm doing," she said. French now has six wins and nine placings for the 2019-20 season...and on her current form, there are more winners just around the corner!   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

For someone who has been around horses a long time, Tayla French admits she sure took her sweet time getting her harness racing drivers’ licence. After a failed medical test at age 16 put her plans on hold, French finally took the plunge again last year and gained her licence in August. Now that she’s got it, the 21-year-old daughter of Heathcote trainer Terry French plans on making the most of every moment. Success came early for French, who notched her first winner at Kilmore just three weeks into her career. “That was a real eye-opener … I didn’t really know at that point what it was like to be in the front of the field,” she said. “It was Illawong Lively, who is trained by Lynne Mercieca in Toollen. “She’s done a really good job and really supported me. And it was against one of our horses (Nelbell).” French, who has started sharing the training duties with Terry in their hometown of Heathcote, had to wait a little longer for her second winner, but that only served to make it even more special than the first. Her success aboard Joeys Hangover at Shepparton on February 13 was the first together for the father-daughter combination.  Tayla and Terry French combine for a win with Joeys Hangover at Shepparton on February 13. Picture: SHEPPARTON HARNESS RACING CLUB   “I jumped off another horse of ours at Echuca on New Year’s day and Michelle Phillips drove it for us, so the first win for dad could have come a bit quicker,” she said. “But it’s hard to say ‘no’ to an outside drive if you have one of your own in the race. “You need the outside drives, so you jump on when asked. I was very happy for Michelle though.” French knows it won’t be the last time she comes up on the losing end of a race involving one of her horses. “I do actually smile and a bit of the crowd has picked up on it … they’re saying why are you smiling when you finished back in the field … but I’m like, my horse just won,” she said. “It’s happened to me a few times, so I’m getting used to it.” Previously trained by Shane Gilligan at Shepparton, Joeys Hangover added a second win for the French team at Shepparton earlier this month, with Tayla confident there were plenty more in-store for the four-year-old gelding. French’s progress in the sport has accelerated through her association with one of Bendigo’s top trainer-drivers Chris Svanosio, with whom she works a couple of mornings each week at the stable he shares with veteran trainer and harness racing identity Bruce Morgan at Junortoun. It’s the start of a frenetic work day for the young driver, who travels straight back to Heathcote, where French and her partner are building their home, to work her and Terry’s six horses. She is also employed five days a fortnight as the medical surgery receptionist at Heathcote Primary Health. French praised Svanosio guidance, both around the stables and during track work, as ‘first-class’. “His stable is absolutely flying at the moment – there are a few last-start winners in here,” she said. “I am really happy for Chris and all us girls, who work here behind the scenes, because he does do a lot of work. “Whether he’s got a horse at Mildura the night before and getting home at 3am, or is at Swan Hill or Ballarat, he’s always up early and straight at it … and he won’t go home until the work’s done. “He always has an encouraging word for us. I can only see it being onwards and upwards from here.” As one of a bunch of promising young female drivers from the Bendigo region, French – together with Shannon O’Sullivan, also from Heathcote, Michelle Phillips and Monique Burnett – took on roles as ambassadors during the industry’s recent Team Teal campaign, to raise awareness and funds for ovarian cancer research. She described the experience as ‘humbling’ and ‘a huge opportunity’. “It’s unbelievable getting to wear the teal pants and to understand the meaning behind it and just how big an issue it is, “ French said. “And to actually get a winner in my first year in teal pants was huge …. awesome. “I’ll definitely remember that first winner, especially because it was with dad too. It’s a good feeling to get under your belt.” By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

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