All Rapley needed was some confidence
By Garrick Knight
It was a night she never thought would come.
Her first race drive, let alone her first race winner.
But thanks to a sneaky move on the part of her boss, Dave McGowan, Sheridan Rapley now has a perfect one-from-one record as a driver.
“It’s a little bit surreal,” she told HRNZ a day after reining home Pekeson at Cambridge on Friday night.
“It’s starting to sink in now and I’m really forward to the next one.”
Rapley reckons those words would probably surprise most who know her.
“I’m not the most confident person.
“And I didn’t even know I had the drive until I got home from Aussie on Wednesday and Dave told me I had been confirmed as the driver.
“Which was kind of a good thing, probably, as I would have chickened out otherwise.”
Working for McGowan and his wife Clare meant Rapley knew plenty about Pekeson, but it still didn’t prepare her for what was to come on race night.
“I’d driven him at the workouts a couple of times leading up the races.
“I would have been happy with any place, really - I just wanted to get around safely.
“But he felt really good during the warm up and amazing in the run. Then all the gaps just opened up.”
A hot early tempo isn’t uncommon in a junior drivers’ race and that was to be the case on Friday night as even-money favourite Callie’s Delight was softened up in front.
Rapley meanwhile sat back on the markers smoking the proverbial pipe.
“I wasn’t expecting to get quite so far back on the fence but I managed to get off a lap out and just kept finding gaps to run in to.”
They needed the length of the straight to reel in Callie’s Delight but in the shadows of the post she gained the upper hand.
Rapley, a North Shore girl with no family background in the industry, actually started off doing Kidz Kartz in Kumeu.
“I went to Rangitoto College and grew up in Albany.
“A family friend’s daughter was going to Kidz Kartz and I went along a few times and got hooked.”
After leaving school a few years ago she took a job working in Pukekohe for Peter and Vaughan Blanchard.
“I was travelling from North Shore to their barn every day; it would take me an hour and a half to drive there some days.
“Which is why I moved out here to Whangarata about a year ago.”
Desiring a change of scenery and fresh start, Rapley took up a job offer from the McGowans three months ago and hasn’t regretted it a day since.
“Dave has been really good, giving me a variety of different horses to drive and get my confidence up on.
“I’ve actually had my junior drivers’ licence for a year, I just wasn’t confident enough to have my first drive.
“But Dave was so helpful. He knew how I would be feeling and talked me through the whole thing.
“And that was such a big thing for me. I was so worried about the owners getting upset.
“But I had a great time out there and now I can’t wait for my next opportunity.”
With a dearth of junior drivers in the north at present, that is bound to come sooner than she thinks.