Group One Dreams Come True

By Jonny Turner

A brilliant tactical drive saw the Group One dreams of driver Sarah O’Reilly and trainers Brent and Tim White come true with American Me in the Invercargill Cup at Ascot Park yesterday.

O’Reilly added the biggest prize yet to her already glittering resume as a junior driver with a pinpoint effort to win Southland’s biggest harness race.

But before she could taste the joys of victory, the reinswoman had to be told she won the race as she wasn’t totally sure after crossing the line.

“It is pretty amazing; I can’t believe it – I didn’t think I had won.”

In a crucial move, O’Reilly made the second favourite Self Assured work hard to take the lead off her in the second lap of the race.
With American Me able to wear down the former New Zealand Cup winner in a thrilling finish, there was little doubt afterwards that O’Reilly’s tactics were a crucial factor in her horse’s win.

“I knew I probably had to make them work a little bit because my guy is quite tough, and I knew he could handle it,” O’Reilly said.

American Me’s victory also handed trainers Brent and Tim White their maiden Group One successes, both individually and as training partners.

“It is a super result for the old boy and me, and the whole team at home,” Tim White said. “We couldn’t do it without all of our helpers; it is a team effort and it is a credit to the team.”

The White stable has been an unstoppable force since father and son went into partnership. Though the momentum has been building for years since Brent White went training on a full-time basis.

Yesterday’s result left no doubts about the White stables’ status as one of New Zealand’s top-class barns.

“It is always your goal to be better; we have been in the class races this year, which is great for the stable,” White said.

New Zealand’s trotting star again shone brightest when Oscar Bonavena sped to victory in the Group Three David Moss Stakes at Ascot Park.

A strong tempo early in the race left the Dominion-winning star well off the pace, but it wasn’t long until Mark Purdon slotted the trotter into a perfect one-one sit.

From there, there was only going to be one result.

“He is just lethal when he gets that sort of drag into the race,” Purdon said.

“I was forced to go when the others went before me, but it worked out perfectly.”

With his victory, Oscar Bonavena has earned some quiet time over the Christmas-New Year period before the Purdon stable looks for his next target.


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