Morrison not feeling the pressure ahead of Rangiora
By Garrick Knight
Holding the lead at the halfway mark of this weekend’s New Zealand Junior Drivers’ Championship isn’t phasing John Morrison.
The Ashburton horseman, who heads in to today’s Rangiora meeting with a small lead in the annual competition, is used to being in front of his peers.
He’s the country’s leading junior driver this season, with 57 wins and finished 119 points ahead of his nearest rival on the annual juniors’ tally.
Pressure? No chance.
“I’m pretty relaxed about it and not too worried if it happens or not.
“I’ve had a great season and taking part in this competition with a great bunch of drivers has just topped it off nicely.
“Things have been going well and I was lucky enough to get on a couple of decent chances on the first night and that helped me out, points-wise.”
While he didn’t drive a winner in either of the two heats on Friday night, his second and fourth placings were enough to give him a three-point lead over Kimberley Butt ahead of the final two legs at Rangiora.
“It was a shame that Smoke N Reactor (fourth) drew badly in the second heat because I think she probably would have won otherwise.
“I probably had my two best drives on Friday night and it will be pretty tough to hold on from here.
“Kimberley has a couple of decent drives at Rangiora and she probably deserves to be favourite at this point.”
Morrison partners Trompeur in the third heat, a mobile sprint, and the one positive is that he has drawn the coveted ace.
“I’ve driven him once before, for his previous trainer, so I know what to expect.
“But his form looks pretty average so hopefully I can get a soft trip and box away in to the money.”
He partners Bakari in the final heat, and it went an improved race for fourth in the hands of trainer, Gavin Smith, last time out.
“I spoke to Gavin at the races on Friday night and he said the horse went a lot better last week and he expects it to be further improved for this run.
“Being a standing start, we’ll need a bit of luck, but it could work in our favour.
“Pine Cone (Alicia Harrison) is always very good from a stand and looks hard to beat.”
Being the country’s leading junior reinsman comes with its perks and, for Morrison, that means four extra drives on the Rangiora card.
“It’s nice to be wanted; nowadays I don’t really have to ring for drives, there’s usually something popping up at every meeting.
“The phone is always ringing.”
Of his four other drives, Morrison makes note of two first maidens – the first starter Only In America, and Gottagettabeer in the last race.
“Only In America I think will be a nice enough horse in time and I expect a good run from him.
“Gottagettabeer is definitely going to win one soon.
“It’s been going bloody good and will really appreciate having the inside draw.”
It’s been a long season for Morrison, but one he wouldn’t change for the world.
“You’ve got to enjoy it otherwise it will get to you eventually with all the travel involved.
“All those meetings around Christmas time are a real grind, and it got tough recently with meetings in Nelson and Invercargill close together.
“But I have enjoyed it, and I guess the fact that I’ve been going good has made it a lot easier.”