Blair Orange going big in 2022
By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk
For someone who says he doesn't actively set targets every season, milestones have a way of finding Blair Orange.
The country's top driver has breezed past 100 winners and $1m in stakes for 2022 and is all but guaranteed of taking out his fifth straight drivers' premiership.
"I'm pretty happy with how's it going," says Orange, "I never take it for granted but it has been a good few months."
Currently he's on 103 wins for the year, 53 clear of closest rival John Dunn.
In June alone he reined back-to-back trebles at Ashburton (Republican Party, Vinke B and Soviet Star) and Invercargill (Santanna Mach, Northview Peg and One More Moment).
Vinke B's win was his seventh in the time-honoured two-year-old feature, the Sapling Stakes. His run started with Lennon in 2003 and also included Krug in 2020.
"It's been a very kind race to me and it certainly helps when you have the right cattle to sit behind."
And support from trainers has been critical. As a freelance driver there's barely a leading stable he doesn't drive for and he's won at nearly 20 different tracks around the country so far this year alone.
"I'm certainly not over the travel, I've had lots of support whether it's Micky at Palmy (Michael House) or Tony Stratford and many others down south."
"It's what you do to make a living."
In between his driving commitments there's also a team of 40 he's preparing at home with Ken Barron at Toliman Lodge at West Melton in Canterbury.
"They are at various stages in their preps but you always look forward to the buzz of getting behind your next good horse."
And over the years there have been plenty, highlighted by his New Zealand Cup - Dominion double in 2019 with Cruz Bromac and Habibi Inta. He also won the last New Zealand Cup with Copy That.
Since starting out in 1997 Orange has had 2414 wins, making him fifth all-time in terms of New Zealand winners surpassed only by Tony Herlihy (3621), Maurice McKendry (3352), Ricky May (3024) and David Butcher (2535)
In the elongated 2021 season (August 1 2020 - December 31 2021) he had a career high 267 wins while his best for a 12 month season was 232 in 2018.
Orange has won the premiership four consecutive times (2018-2021), taking over from Dexter Dunn who won ten in a row before basing himself in North America.
But Orange is adamant that clinching premierships, or setting records, is not what motivates him.
"Not at all," he says, "I never try to get ahead of myself, you do your best for the trainers and the owners and give every race 100 per cent."