First training win for harness newcomer


When Cut Above won the last race at Oamaru on Wednesday afternoon it marked not only the first training win for Ineka Lee, but a win that inspired those looking to get involved in harness racing.

Cut Above rounded off a dream start to Lee’s training career. Lee is also the owner of the three-year-old Gotta Go Cullect filly, who had finished second in her debut run at Banks Peninsula before picking up the win at just her second start. She was also in the sulky for both performances.

“I purchased Cut Above at the mixed bloodstock sale as a weanling,” Lee recalled. ”I actually had a few Live Or Die colts I wanted to buy but they went above my price range. So when Cut Above was initially passed in I thought she was worth a shot. I ended up getting her for $500 which has turned out to be a very good bargain.”

Prior to her debut run Lee had been giving the horse educational outings at the workouts, just aiming to do things right each time, and wasn’t expecting what was to transpire in her first start.

“I was actually quite disappointed with the draw we got at Banks Peninsula as she is a really good standing start horse. So I wasn’t very hopeful. But she ended up being very unlucky in the run home and I was thrilled with how she went.”

“Then at Oamaru she was waiting for the other horses in the run home, she’s still learning a lot and I expect her to really improve as she progresses through her racing career.”

The filly will now go out for a spell before her next preparation.

From a non-racing background, Lee entered the harness racing game on a stroke of pure luck, having attended the Boxing Day races at Ashburton when she was fourteen.

“I remember thinking that I’d really love to be a part of the racing industry somehow. But I had no idea where to really start, so I just rang some local trainers to see what my options were,” Lee explained.

“I did a bit of work experience through high school with a thoroughbred trainer, and we were supposed to move around to different places each time. But after I did a bit at John Hay’s place I decided I wasn’t going to go anywhere else. And now at age 31 I’m still there so it was a great decision.”

After holding her trials license for ten years, Lee ventured into race day driving in 2014 as a junior driver, before moving to the graduation ranks this season.

A consistent performer, Lee has collected 12 wins and 24 placings to date in her driving career. This season alone she has had seven drives for three wins, three placings and an outstanding UDR rating of .6349.

But her training career so far is even more impressive. With just two starts, for a win now, and a second with Cut Above.

When it came to being from a non-racing background Lee never felt like it affected her and her goals.

“John (Hay) has been a huge mentor and influence during my driving and training career. I’ve been really supported with drives and his owners have always been happy to have me on their horse and I really appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given.”

“I’ve also got to thank Peter Davis and Margo Nyhan as they have always been more than happy to put me on their horses too. I’ve been really lucky and I’m grateful.”

Lee is currently working a handful of young horses in her own right, and taking each day as it comes.  

She is an avid half marathon competitor, and uses training ideas she adopts as a runner to help condition horses and recovery times. 

“My goal was just to train a winner, and now that’s off my shoulders I’ll just look to carry on and target my UDR rating. I guess I’ll have to start rethinking some bigger goals now.”