Double triumph at Methven for Sarah O'Reilly
By Jonny Turner
Sarah O’Reilly enjoyed one of her biggest days in harness racing when she won her fourth New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship and bagged a Group 3 Methven Cup victory with American Me.
As a two-time national junior drivers premiership winner with feature wins to her name, O’Reilly had already had more than her share of highlights in the sport.
But winning a Methven Cup ramped up an already incredible day.
The junior driver has dreamed of winning Methven’s biggest race and on Sunday that dream came true.
“I have always wanted to win the Methven Cup since I was a little kid, just because my family has done well in it before and I love the Methven track,” O’Reilly said.
“I have grown up there and I basically learned to drive on the track.”
O’Reilly had a plan to find a run on the pegs for American Me and she pulled that plan off to perfection before angling her charge off the inner at the 800m and then letting him down for his winning run.
“He has probably just been a bit unlucky at Addington lately,” O'Reilly said, "but today he was off the front row and he took advantage of that.”
“I thought getting down to the markers and getting a nice run was going to be the key to the race and it worked out really well.”
O’Reilly’s Methven Cup win came after she had already sealed her fourth win in the New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship when Kennedy finished fourth in the sixth and final heat. That gave her 69 points, five ahead of nearest rival Zev Meredith.
The championships started at Addington on Thursday night, before heading to Invercargill and then finishing at Methven.
The reinswoman admitted she was lost for words to describe her incredible day at Methven.
“I don’t know what to say really, it is quite amazing.”
O’Reilly also admitted she wasn’t totally sure why she has been so successful in the New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship, but it is clear that that success is no fluke.
And the extensive travel she has done in recent seasons, jumping behind unfamiliar horses in the process, has to be an asset.
“With all the travelling I have done, it is definitely a help.”
“You don’t get nervous, you just do what you have got to do and you don’t get worried about driving horses for the first time.”
O’Reilly’s big day at Methven comes less than three months before the end of her outstanding tenure as a junior driver.
She’s on track to win a third national junior drivers’ premiership at the end of December.
“I couldn’t be going any better really, so hopefully I can keep it going until the end of the year.”
O’Reilly could live another dream before she loses her junior tag.
How far American Me moves up the rankings for the New Zealand Cup following his Methven Cup win and in his subsequent starts will determine whether the Brent and Tim White trained pacer makes the New Zealand Cup field.
“We might be a bit far down the list, but it would be amazing if he was able to make it into the cup.”
“Brent and Tim have done a super job with him, they have him looking great and feeling great and he is just a really happy horse.”