Junior premiership coming down to the wire
By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
John Morrison and Sarah O’Reilly have been locked in a duel for the New Zealand Junior Drivers Premiership this season and it will come to a head at Addington Raceway on Thursday night.
O’Reilly heads into the meeting in great form, having recently taken out the New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship earlier this month, but will have to be at her brilliant best in order to topple Morrison this week.
She trails the West Melton horseman by four wins, but with five drives at Addington on Thursday, she is still in the hunt for the premiership.
Morrison, who is searching for his third consecutive premiership title, has enjoyed the rivalry with O’Reilly and is wary of her high caliber drives on Thursday.
“It has been a real competitive go for the last wee while,” Morrison said. “Sarah has got a heap of good drives on Thursday night, so it is going to be interesting.”
Morrison has four drives himself, including last start winner Champagneandwine in the Unsung Heroes Mobile Pace (1980m).
“She is an honest mare,” Morrison said. “Probably a 1980m mobile doesn’t really suit her forte of racing, but hopefully they go hard and she can be hitting the line well.”
Morrison will also hop in the cart behind Springbank Mason in the Darren Defilippi Memorial Handicap Trot (2600m) for trainer Phil Williamson.
“He went really well last start at Forbury (for second), he just had a wee gallop late. Knowing Phil, he would have done a bit of homework on that and he will be a good chance if he trots,” Morrison said.
“Off the 20m is a bit of a hard task, but he has shown that he has a bit of ability.”
Last start winner Tiger Taylor will take a step up in grade in the Parsons Pensioner Classic Mobile Pace (1980m), but Morrison isn’t overly perturbed by that.
“It is a jump in class, but I wouldn’t say it is a real big jump,” he said. “We are drawn out a wee bit (7) so we will just have to see.
“She does have good gate speed, but whether I can use it to get across I don’t know, I will have to work that out. She will be a horse to follow over the spring anyway.”
Time In A Bottle will round out Morrison’s quartet of drives in the Donaghys Innovation Mobile Trot (1980m).
“Time In A Bottle raced a bit below par the other night, but she was off a big handicap. She might have had to do too much to get there, but Sam (Ottley) drove her really well.
“She did go well over the sprint trip last time so hopefully I can save her for one run.”
With 59 wins to his name this season to date, Morrison has been pleased with the way things have gone and he said there were a number of highlights.
“I have had a good season and I have driven a lot of winners for a lot of different people. I have had great support,” he said.
“Running second in the Jewels with Lifes A Beach was the main one. I had a lot of placings and a few wins on her.”