Ottley first to 700 driving wins
By Mike Love
New Zealand’s most successful female driver Samantha Ottley says she is feeling "very thankful" after bringing up her 700th driving success at Methven yesterday.
It was in the Hekeao Feed Company Trot when she steered the Kevin Fairbairn-trained Holly Highlander to a narrow victory, beating Sunny Louis by a nose.
“It's a pretty cool achievement to have next to my name,” said Ottley.
“It was good to bring it up with Kevin (Fairbairn) and Wendy (Nordqvist) who have been a big supporter of mine. I’ve driven for them for a long time, so it was good to get a milestone win with them.”
Holly Highlander began well to lead early, before handing up to eventual runner-up Sunny Louis at the mile. Ottley waited patiently in the trail before using the passing lane to wear down Sunny Louis to win by the narrowest of margins.
“I knew it was a really close finish. It was pretty cool, Mark (Purdon) congratulated me after the line and said that I’d got it.
“All the messages of congratulations and comments on Facebook that I’ve got, just shows how lucky I've been with the support I’ve had all these years. I couldn’t thank them enough.”
In June this year Ottley became the most successful female driver in this country, with her 678th career success putting her ahead of Nicky Chilcott, who is now on 686 wins.
Ottley has always been a popular driving choice for trainers and owners throughout her career to date. In more recent years her employer Mark Jones has provided Ottley with many driving successes, including her sole Group 1 victory to date on Rocker Band at the 2016 Jewels.
Among her wide range of achievements it was Ottley’s first race day drive on her 18th birthday where she drove her first winner Nigel Paul at the Kurow meeting in 2008.
“I was lucky it was my first ever race drive that mum (Denise) trained and owned Nigel Paul. Also Just Rose for Colin and Julie DeFilippi in the Geraldine cup (2012) was very special, and of course Rocker Band in the Jewels was unreal.
“Every win is special in some sort of way.”
In the feature Green Mile races, Ohoka Connor, for trainers Steve and Amanda Telfer, took out the pacers' version.
Settling back early before pushing forward to lead from the 1100m by driver Tim Williams, Ohoka Connor was able to hold off the late fast challenge by Franco Norton to hold on by half a neck, pacing the mile in 2:01.3.
Oscar Bonavena won the trotters' version in style for trainers Mark and Nathan Purdon, with Mark Purdon in the sulky. The multiple Group 1 winner went forward from his wide gate to lead and toy with his rivals, winning by ten lengths from Maui and Aveross Majesty who deadheated for second.