Sam Ottley's 500th - "It's pretty cool"

By Jonny Turner

Samantha Ottley was typically low key after becoming just the second woman to notch 500 driving wins in New Zealand.

Ottley reached the milestone in style at Oamaru on Wednesday  driving Deceptive Lee in the second leg of a treble of wins for Canterbury trainer David Mitchell.

The Canterbury horsewoman joins her northern counterpart Nicky Chilcott, a pioneering woman in New Zealand harness racing, as a 500-race winning female driver.

Though proud to be something of a pioneer herself, the large number of women now in the driving ranks in New Zealand means Ottley doesn’t think of her achievement as anything too unusual.

“It is pretty cool, but it is not really too much to think about, really.”

“There are so many girls getting out there and driving which is awesome to see.”

“And they are certainly kicking a lot of goals.”

Ottley ranks Rocker Band’s Group One win at the Harness Jewels in 2016 as one of the biggest highlights of her career.

But it was a different win that crossed her mind as she passed the Oamaru winning post with Deceptive Lee.

“It is pretty special to win a Group One race and to do it at the Jewels on a mare like that is right up there.”

“But you never forget your first win, either.”

“I thought about that as I crossed the line.”

“That was here at Oamaru with a horse that mum owned and trained.”

“So that was pretty cool.”

Ottley drove Nigel Paul to win for her mother, Denise, on her 18th Birthday and in her first-ever race drive in 2008.

The trainer has been a big supporter of her daughter throughout her driving career.

“She is a huge supporter, she is always watching all of my races and she has been a big part of it,” Ottley said.

“There have been a lot of people along the way that have supported me.”

“I have worked with some great people like Colin and Julie DeFilippi.”

“I probably wouldn’t have driven half of the winners I have without Mark Jones.”

“He has been a great supporter.”

If Ottley drives La Rosa to win her second NZB Standardbred Harness Million Final for Jones on Friday night at Addington it would top an incredible week for Ottley.

“That is fairy-tale stuff, she is a nice filly and she is going super.”

“Onwards and upwards, hopefully.”

Milestones like Wednesday’s 500 wins are not the focus of Ottley’s career.

She strives to drive more winners in each harness racing season.

And that is something she is succeeding at.

“You have to sit back and think about it really, it is a lot of winners,” Ottley said.

“You just cruise through really, the milestones just pop up.”

“Each winner I like to try to drive more winners than the previous year.”

“Getting a milestone like this, it happens when it happens.”

“I am having a bit of luck, certainly the last week anyway.”

“I am getting on some nice horses and it has been a good season.”

Nicky Chilcott has 648 wins as a driver in New Zealand, giving her a 148 head start in the race to become the first woman to 1000 driving wins in New Zealand.


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