O’Reilly clinches third Junior Championship

By Jonny Turner

Travelling up and down New Zealand paid off for Sarah O’Reilly when she won a third New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship at Kaikoura on Sunday.

O’Reilly sealed her treble of victories in the annual highlight on the calendar for the country’s emerging driving talent with a cool, calm and collected steer to win the final heat with Riveered.

With three victories in the last four runnings of the championship, there is no doubt O’Reilly’s skill as a driver has shone through when competing against her peers.

Jumping behind new horses and quickly getting to know them is vital in a series with randomly drawn drives.

With O’Reilly trekking to Central Districts and Southland regularly on top of her commitments in Canterbury, that aspect is nothing new to her.

“It does help a bit – I have been in a few different situations and it does help ease your nerves about driving new horses,” O’Reilly said.

“You gets used to all different scenarios, so it does help.”

O’Reilly regularly drives on every kind of track imaginable from Ascot Park to Manawatu.

There was little surprise when the reinswoman produced a masterful drive against the usual track pattern at Kaikoura with Riveered.

“You have to be a bit more careful with the tight turns, you can go into the first turn like you would at a track like Addington.”

O’Reilly sat off the pace before sending Riveered on a winning mission before the home turn.

The reinswoman then got the best out of the Mark Purdon and Hayden Cullen trained pacer in his epic home straight duel with Kikorangi Blue, driven by Wilson House.

“I was a wee bit worried when Wilson came up beside me, I felt like he had a bit of a kick.”

“But my fella kicked when he came up beside me which was good.”

After sealing her third New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship in four years, O’Reilly confirmed the thrill of winning doesn’t diminish with each victory in the series.

“No, it definitely doesn’t, it’s just as good.”

With a third series victory, plus leading the national junior drivers premiership comfortably, O’Reilly’s career could hardly be going even better.

The reinswoman has recently made a stable move to Ashburton to cut down her travel commitments for work during the week, successfully linking up with the Brent White barn.

Sam Thornley finished runner-up, watching on from the stands without a drive in the final heat.

The reinsman drove Streaming Live to win heat three of the series.

Carter Dalgety clinched third place in the championship with his third placing with Proviseur in heat four.

Wuth three championships O’Reilly is just one away from the record four set by Maurice McKendry in the mid to late 1970s.

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