Thornley nabs first Group 1 - "a wonderful feeling"

By Michael Guerin

Driver Olivia Thornley spent much of Sunday’s $175,000 IRT New Zealand Oaks worrying that the tactic she thought up to win the race may actually end up costing her it.

But the yet-untapped ability of No Matter Wat was enough to overcome her fierce pulling and provide the popular Thornley with the first Group 1 victory of her driving career.

No Matter Wat went into the Oaks a big improver after a stunning third in the lead-up last Friday week but while Thornley hoped she could win she thought a top three finish would be a great result so set about putting No Matter Wat’s mind on the job.

“After she galloped away last week I gave her a real rouse up in the prelim to get her mind on the job,” says the 22-year-old.

“The problem was it worked too well and she thought she had to go like that the whole race.

“I was really happy to get her off the gate so well and get the front but when she kept going and wouldn’t really come back to me I started to worry.

“So I tried to control her and keep her from choking down but then later she started to get some of her Harry Houdini steps going and I thought she might break.

“After all of that to get her home was such a relief but also an amazing buzz.

“This is why we are in the industry to try and get wins at this level so to break through is a wonderful feeling.

“And I have had so many people contact me, my phone has been blowing up after so thats really great to have that support.”

No Matter Wat held out the passing lane surge of Obsession with favourite True Fantasy third after sitting parked in the 1:56.8 mile rate for the 2600m.

Thornley has been making a name for herself as a driver for the last two years but it is as one of the head staff at All Stars and a constant travelling companion for their elite horses that she is most recognized.

Go back through the footage or files of recent Group 1 winners in New Zealand and you will see plenty of Thornley’s trademark smile helping some of our best horses back to the stables.

“I have been there (All Stars) seven years at Christmas, I started when I was 15,” she says.

“They have been very good to me and I am learning so much and I realise the great opportunities I get. So to get that Group 1 for everybody else at the stables and the owners as well feels good.”

It isn’t just driving that interests Thornley heading forward though as she and her mother Jackie have a broodmare now and are on to their third co-bred foal so Olivia is already working her own youngster with more to come.

“I don’t actually work him at the All Stars cause we are full so I go work him afterwards.

“We have two now by Creatine (stallion) out of the mare from the family breed and I love the trotters.

“So that gives me another thing to work on and learn from.”

No Matter Wat’s emergence suggest she is going to be an even better four-year-old next season in a crop that feels like many of the participants have plateaued after the longest three-year-old season ever.

Judging by what she was able to do after over-racing Krug-style from the Northern Derby last year, No Matter Wat may have a bright future.
So too, does Thornley.

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