Rookie Meredith completes whirlwind week with winner
By Garrick Knight
It was a dream start to his driving career for Zev Meredith at Cambridge on Friday night.
On his first night of driving, six days after hurriedly satisfying his licence requirements, the 17-year-old took two drives for boss Brent Mangos and came away with a win and a placing.
After flying home on Gladamare to run second, Meredith drove hot favourite Havehorsewilltravel in the junior drivers’ event and got the job done to cap a memorable night.
“It’s been a fantastic night, I couldn’t be happier,” Meredith told HRNZ.
“I really want to send a massive thank you to ‘Mango’, as well as the owners of both horses, for putting me on.
“To accept that a junior was on, having his first drives, might not have been easy.”
Meredith doesn’t have a heap of family history in the game apart from a mother who worked at Linden Park Stud in Pukekawa at one point in time.
“I really only got in to it because we lived next door to the Franklin Park track manager and he introduced me to Franklin Kidz Kartz.
“That taught me the basics and then I started to help out Paulette Screen with her ponies.
“Then I got offered some holiday work at Mango’s because he needed someone for a few weeks while his staff were on holiday.
“I went back for another week after that and before long he offered me a full-time job.”
That was in June last year and in the ensuing 16 months Meredith has absorbed all he can from one of New Zealand’s most accomplished and revered horsemen.
“He’s been really good, trying to teach me as much as he can.
“He’ll tell you when you’re doing something wrong and then give you tips on how to do it better.
“I’m a very curious person so I’m always asking questions.”
A junior driver shortage in the north plus the opportunity to drive the exciting Havehorsewilltravel less than a week later prompted Meredith to complete his final four graduating drives at the workouts last Saturday.
The problem was, Mangos only had one horse in. Enter Ray Green.
“Ray was massive; he enabled me to get signed off by giving me three drives last week.
“And it was nice to sit behind different horses that I hadn’t driven before, wearing different gear, too.”
By coincidence, two of the three drives Meredith took for Green were on the three-year-olds Double Or Nothing and Larry Lincoln, who both also won at Cambridge on Friday night.
After a good steer on the unlucky Gladamare, Meredith wanted to take luck out of the equation on Havehorsewilltravel.
He’s a recent arrival from Otago but is chock-full of ability and was facing a significant drop in grade from recent Auckland racing.
Crucially, Meredith had the advantage of practicing on him at home during the week.
“I did most of the work with him in the last week to try and learn his little tricks and traits.”
It paid off – Meredith got him round in one piece even after being illegally pushed out 1100 from home and having to go four-wide out of the straight the final time.
“I just pressed on even after I nearly got knocked over. If I didn’t do that, I wasn’t likely to win it.
“He was definitely the best horse in the race – he has a fair bit of ability – so it made sense to drive him that way.”
Meredith is like any other teenage junior driver; he has the same hopes and ambitions. Except for one surprising one.
“I don’t plan on leaving the industry. In fact, I want to train one day, hopefully. If I earn the right to do it.”