O’Reilly vying for Championship three-peat

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk

A three-peat beckons for Sarah O’Reilly in this week's New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship, starting at Methven this afternoon. 

The Canterbury reinswoman has won two editions of the series (2019 and 2021), joining a select group including Zachary Butcher, Simon Lawson, Anthony Butt and Tony Herlihy.

She is hoping to go one better than her predecessors when she competes in this year’s series where she is hoping to join Maurice McKendry as the only other driver to have won three titles, with the veteran reinsman winning four in the seventies.

“The series has been good to me, I have won it twice now. It would be nice to make it three this weekend,” O’Reilly said.

The top junior driver is looking forward to the series which will take in two of the country’s most scenic tracks – Methven and Kaikoura.

“It is going to be good going to Methven and Kaikoura, they are two really nice tracks, so they will be exciting to go to,” O’Reilly said.

The first two heats of the series will take place at Methven on Friday where O’Reilly has been charged with steering Onedin Hurricane in the Greg Donaldson Contractor NZJD Champs Heat 1 Mobile Pace (1609m) and Arizonawildcat in the Newton’s Apiaries NZJD Champs Heat 2 Stand Pace (1700m).

“The draw (10) will work out alright with Onedin Hurricane,” O’Reilly said.

“Most of the races run at Methven you have to be on the fence, so if I don’t end up too far back then hopefully we should be running on from one on the second row.

“Arizonawildcat seems to be quite a tough horse that keeps on going, hopefully he will get a nice trip during the running and be there in the finish too.”

Heading to Kaikoura on Sunday, O’Reilly just has the one drive over the two heats and will do the steering behind the Mark Purdon and Hayden Cullen-trained Riveered in the Precut Construction NZJD Champs Heat 4 Mobile Pace (1900m).

“I missed out on a drive in the other heat but it will be exciting to wear Mark, Natalie, and Hayden’s colours. It will be awesome to drive a horse for them,” O’Reilly said.

“The one of Bob Butt’s (Chris Kyle) also goes well. They will be the two to beat in that race.”


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