Ryleigh Phelan continues family tradition
by Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk
Following on from grandfather Frank, and her father Scott it's now Ryleigh Phelan's turn to make her way in the sport.
On Sunday the youngster made a winning debut in a Kidz Kartz race at Cambridge.
"I was nervous, I had butterflies," Ryleigh said, "but it was real fun."
Ryleigh has been driving at club events and the like for two years. But it was only after she turned 10 last week that she was eligible to drive at Kidz Kartz events. Partnered with Franklin Kidz Kartz Club pony Dainty she had a fourth in the first heat and then a win.
"She won by about three lengths," says proud dad Scott Phelan, "it was three pony lengths though!"
Ryleigh was pretty chuffed too - "it was very nice."
And there was no lack of support.
"The whole family was there including the grandparents," says Scott.
Grandad Frank Phelan is a well-known figure in the sport. The starter at Alexandra Park, he is also a successful trainer (116 wins since 1990) as well as the winner of 30 races as an open or amateur driver.
Son Scott followed him into the sport, he's had 583 driving wins, dating back to 2000 and trained since 2008 either on his own account or in partnership with one of the sport's greatest ever trainers in Barry Purdon.
And with Barry and wife Katrina sponsoring the latest generation of Phelans to hit the racetrack Ryleigh was appropriately decked out in their distinctive silver and blue colours.
Making it a day to remember Scott Phelan also got in the winners' circle on Sunday, with the Purdon-Phelan trained Benson Dude taking out Race 6, the NZB Airfreight Mobile Pace.
While Ryleigh enjoys sports, especially netball and soccer, it's horses that are her number one. She's been around them since she can remember.
"She's very confident around horses," Scott says.
And Ryleigh's interest has ramped up big time of late, after getting her own pony Tex for Christmas.
"He's very well behaved," says Ryleigh.
Such is their bond it's been said she would even sleep in his stall if given the chance.
Tex is stabled with the Purdons at Clevedon, and it's hoped he will qualify for Kidz Kartz racing later this month.
"He hasn't made it to Merlin's paddock just yet!" laughs Scott.