- 16 July 2017
by Tayler Strong
Rory McIlwrick used experience to good purpose when winning the McMillan Equine Feeds 2017 New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship.
The series concluded at Forbury Park yesterday (Saturday) when McIlwrick won the heat for trotters with Mr Majestic and finished second in the heat for pacers with Franco Huntington. He had won the two heats, both for pacers, at Addington the previous night with Bettor Chance and Gypsy’s Choice. He finished the series with 63 points, 31 ahead of his nearest rival, Ben Butcher.
He was the major contributor to the 200 point tally for the the South Island team against 135 for the North Island.
McIlwrick (25) completes his time as a Junior driver on July 31.
“It is definitely a highlight of my time as a junior, a culmination of my whole career. It was special and great meeting all of the young people involved in the series,’’ he said.
“The trainers did a great job with the horses I drove.”
McIlwrick had contested one other series in his six seasons as a junior driver, being unplaced in 2013 when Simon Lawson was the winner.
McIlwrick had on side his own experience and the experience of trainer Ali Malcolmson, who prepares Mr Majestic.
McIlwrick has now won 112 races from 1254 drives. He is the leading junior this season with 38 wins, his best season, ahead of 26 in 2015/16.
He reached 100 wins on the trotter Och Aye The Noo at Forbury Park in March.
McIlwrick stood down from driving for the last five weeks of last season after accumulating 74 wins in order to remain a junior this season and pursue the leading junior driver title. He rates his win on Golden Gate in an intermediate trot at the 2016 NZ Cup meeting as his best.
He drove his first winner, Tactical Attraction at Invercargill in December, 2011 when based in Southland. He has been with the stable of Martin Denton in recent times.
“I will just go where the wind takes me,’’ he said.
He began work with the stable of Mark Purdon and has had time with Robert Dunn, Cran Dalgety (18 months), Kirk Larsen, John Caldow (three months at Melton), Nathan Williamson, Amber Hoffman, Graeme Anderson and Phil Williamson.
Mr Majestic lasted to win the heat by a nose from Dusky Eyre after McIlwrick improved from sixth in the running to lead at the 500m.
“I was hoarse with yelling at him over the closing stages and just hoped I had held on,’’ said McIlwrick.
Franco Huntington made most of the pace in his heat and finished three quarters of a length from Arthur Lowe, driven by Dylan Ferguson.
The final points table for the championship:
Rory McIlwrick 63
Ben Butcher 32
Katie Cox 31
Kimberly Butt 30
John Morrison 29
Mark Johnson 26
Matt Anderson 25
Dylan Ferguson 24
Jack MacKinnon 24
Sheree Tomlinson 22
Robert Argue 16
Tony Cameron 13
South Island 200
North Island 135