Big night looms for Steph Burley at Cambridge


By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk  

A winner as both a trainer and driver across the Tasman, Steph Burley will drive in this country for the first time at Cambridge tonight.

The 26-year-old Aucklander will take the reins behind the John Dickie-trained and owned three-year-old filly Bettor Than Bronze in Race 6, the Gilmours Mobile Pace (7.48pm). Both driver and horse will be making their New Zealand race day debut.

"I had no real intention of driving here but I've been driving her at home so when John (Dickie) asked me I thought why not," says Burley.

Dickie's regular go-to driver, son Josh has re-located to Australia while Burley made the move back to New Zealand late last year after an extended time across the Tasman.

After growing up "riding rather than driving horses" Burley travelled to Australia in 2014 with her dad Mark and their pacer Major Command, who retired from racing three years later with a record of 23 wins from 182 starts.

Mark Burley (Colson) trained 26 winners in New Zealand between 2004 and 2018 including the likes of Chas Luney and Meander With Earl. Steph's mother Heather Burley was also associated with some top racehorses. She raced 1989 New Zealand Free-For-All winner Dillon Dean (20 wins) while her father Keith Burley raced Dillon Dale (17 wins) who won the 1984 Free For All.

During her stint in Australia Steph Burley worked for high profile trainers Darren Hancock, Amanda Turnbull and Chris Frisby, as well as training and driving.

Her first winning drive came at Bathurst in 2016 with her parent's filly Our Emancipation. Her second came only half an hour later with Oh I Am The One. The pair were part of four winners on the night for Steve Turnbull.

"It was a crazy schedule, I'd be up very early and work my horses and then go to Amanda's at 6am and then at 8.30 I'd my proper job before returning home and doing the feeding up."

Her "proper" job is accountancy. She completed a Bachelor of Accounting via correspondence at Massey University and continues to work full-time "remotely" for an Australian firm.

All up she estimates she has had 16 wins as a driver and 9 as a trainer.

Which brings us to tonight's race at Cambridge, with Bettor Than Bronze drawing the ace over 2200m.

"I haven't driven on race night since October last year but I'm excited and we will see how it goes."

Burley has a lot of good mates in the industry including Andrew Drake and the Hackett sisters, Tyla and Crystal.

So could tonight be the start of something?

"My priority is my job but if opportunities arise .... I just love the horses."

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