Day At The Track

Ottley optimistic

10:39 AM 16 Dec 2016 NZDT
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Sam Ottley and Mark Jones
Stacy Markham

Samantha Ottley will be attempting to become just the second woman to win the North Island’s most prestigious female race with Rocker Band at Alexandra Park tonight, but she also realises there’s one massive hurdle to get past.

Ottley (26) said it would be a dream to win the $100,000 Rosslands Queen Of Hearts Pace for New Zealand's top fillies and mares at 8.44pm, but knows only too well that next week’s $2.80 Auckland Cup favourite is the horse to beat.

Last December Natalie Rasmussen steered Fight For Glory to victory to become the first female driver to win the Queen Of Hearts. Tonight she has handed over the reins on Dream About Me to Mark Purdon.

“Mark and Natalie’s mare looks a class above the field, but anything can happen in racing and we have drawn two compared Dream About Me’s eight. We can win but we will be relying on Dream About Me to have an off night,” Ottley said.

As well as the Group One Queen Of Hearts Pace there will also be four Group Two events competed for tonight.

They are the Group Two $75,000 Peter Breckon Memorial Ladyship 3yo Fillies Stakes; the Group Two $40,000 Lyell Creek Stakes for the open class trotters; the Group Two $50,000 Alabar 3yo Classic; and the Group Two $40,000 Franklin Cup.

Ottley has three drives tonight but only one ‘Group’ assignment.

On November 4 the Mark Jones trained Rocker Band provided Ottley with her first Alexandra Park winner when they out-sprinted their seven rivals in the $14,000 Movenpick Mobile for the R77 to R107 pacers.

Rocker Band also provided Ottley with one of her career highlights at Cambridge Raceway on June 4 this year when they won the $150,000 Group One 4yo Mares’ Diamond.

“I’ve driven some real nice horses like Stylish Monarch, Stent and Pure Power in the past, but Rocker band is one of the fastest horses I ever sat behind.

“She’s now won and placed for me in her last three Alexandra Park starts,” Ottley said.

Last Friday the royally bred 5-year-old Rocknroll Hanover - Mainland Banner mare finished a four-and-a-quarter length third behind Dream About Me and Arden’s Choice in the Group Three $25,000 Caduceus Club Northern Breeders Stakes.

She trailed and then ended up three-deep when Dream About Me hit the lead at the bell. They were snookered and came late when the race was all over.

Dream About Me stopped the clock in an impressive 2:40.2 (mile rate 1:57.2) and home in 57.4. and 27.2. That time was 0.5 seconds slower than Fight For Glory's triumph in last year's Queen of Hearts Pace.

"She ran on well along the markers when the race was all over. She just got held up at the wrong time, but I was rapt with the way she sprinted home.

“She hit the line very well. I think she can finish in the money on Friday and hopefully if things go our way and the favourite has an off night we can upset her. We certainly have the speed,” Ottley said.

Ottley paid a tribute to her boss – Mark Jones.

“Mark has been so good to me since I joined him just over a year ago. When I went there I thought I would get the occasional drive.

“But Mark has put me on everything, and I’m so humbled by that especially when he’s a world champion driver and is watching me drive his horses from the grandstand!

“I can’t thank him and all the owners and trainers who put me on enough. His belief and faith in me has been amazing,”Ottley said.

In April 2014 Ottley became the first female driver to notch up 100 wins when she reined the Michael House trained appropriately named Gogirl Bromac to victory.

To date she has driven 21 winners from 177 starters this season, and all-up in a career dating back to 2009, the Geraldine born and educated horsewoman has won 224 races from 2,444 starters.

She’s also placed 399 times for $1.77m in career stakes.

Ottley is currently seventh on the national driving premiership. She is the leading woman driver in New Zealand with 21 wins – three more than Rasmussen.

The first Queen Of Hearts Pace was contested in 1996 and was won by Adio Routine and Colin De Filippi.

Duane Ranger

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