Ellie Barron has a book of 9 drives at Invercargill
Garrick Knight, NZ Harness News
A combination of local loyalty and patience through a lean patch has put Southland junior driver Ellie Barron in good stead.
The 24-year-old has secured herself a quality book of nine drives at Ascot Park on Saturday and is hopeful that she might be able to rein home at least a couple of winners.
“On paper, I could have a pretty good day if the rub of the green goes my way,” she said.
After a quiet first half of the season, Barron has recorded four wins in the last couple of weeks, which she says is down to some sage advice from her father, Clark, a member of the elite 1000-win driving club.
“I sort of had a slow start to the season with regards to winners, but Dad kept saying to me that I’ll learn a lot more from the third and fourths than I would from winning, and he was right.
“The luck has gone my way a bit more recently and I’m grateful to be able to reward those who have kept the faith in me.”
Being a personable and helpful southern lass has no doubt helped Barron, she reckons.
“Southlanders are a loyal bunch and I find if you make the effort to help them at trials and workouts, they will stick with you on race day.
“If you’re friendly and helpful you won’t have too many worries around here.”
As her profile and number of drives have increased, you would think that requires an even greater commitment off the track by way of study, planning and video work.
But Barron reckons it’s the opposite.
“Because I’m out there driving so often and know all the horses, it’s become less of a task to prepare for my drives.
“Of course, when a horse from Canterbury is in the field, I’ll do the videos on it, and we still do a review on all the race videos after a meeting.
“But looking ahead to meetings now, most of it takes care of itself.”
Barron will drive five horses for her father tomorrow, four of which carry strong form, while she also sticks with the promising pacer Vintage Cheddar in the day’s feature, as well as the improving trotter Nottingham K Two, the two horses she identifies as her best on the day.
Barron drove Vintage Cheddar for trainer Alister Black last week and he made good ground from the back on a sprint home.
This week a win would be penalty free and Barron knows the pressure will be on.
“I was probably a bit passive early and ended up four or five back on the pegs but they came home in 56 and he made ground.
“He’s a neat pacer and I know Alister will be telling me not to be unlucky this week.”
Nottingham K Two has twice won with Barron in the sulky she took over the race day duties from Hamish Hunter two months ago and she thinks there’s every chance that could become three on Saturday.
“He’s getting more and more explosive with every run.
“He’ll never be quick at the start – he’s safe and slow – but as long as he doesn’t draw one, he’s ok.
“I’ll get as handy as I can because he’s such a good follower and will be a chance if he’s handy to them.”
Handy filly Calico Hill has drawn the ace in a strong field and Barron believes she can place with the right run.
“She’s very fast. I drove her for the first time last week and she got home super for fourth.
“It’s a tough field but she’ll get a cushy run and I did say to Richard (Austin, trainer) that she’d be a threat this week with the right run.”
Of the rest, Barron felt her father’s three maidens – The Great Buzz, Rakagem and Thisexcusebetterbeit – were all chances from good draws while his two more experienced pacers, Paduka and Black Ops, were capable of winning with good manners – something that can elude both of them.
“Black Ops is a frustrating horse – he’s teaching me every time I drive him. He doesn’t like running away from other horses.
“Paduka works very well at home and will just need to relax off the second line – I won’t be able to go to the lead with him this time.”
Rounding out Barron’s book is RnR Windermere, a mare with high gate speed that is drawn to advantage again.
“I spoke to Matty (Williamson) about her last night and he said she’ll cross that quick they won’t be able to hold her out.
“If she does lead early, I probably wouldn’t be afraid to drive her with a bit of cover.”