Thornley ready for big day at Ashburton

A quick chat with Olivia Thornley reveals she is hardly crumbling under the pressure ahead of one of the biggest days of her harness racing career.

Thornley heads to Magic Monday at Ashburton to combine with three of the brightest stars in New Zealand in Akuta, Millwood Nike, and Oscar Bonavena.

Dexter Dunn was perhaps the last junior to handle so much horsepower in one day as a junior driver.

The suspension of Mark Purdon and unavailability of Natalie Rasmussen has Thornley taking centre stage behind the elite trio as they progress to even bigger targets next month.

After handling Millwood Nike calmly when she made it 15 from 15 at Addington recently, the reinswoman is taking everything in her stride leading into Ashburton.

“I am managing to hold it together,” Thornley joked.

As far as preparing for her important assignments, Thornley is sticking with a simple approach.

“I am just doing the form I normally would, you don’t want to get ahead of yourself and make things too complicated.”

Akuta is set to start a hot favourite in the Ashburton Flying Stakes following a regulation last start victory at Addington.

The pacer has pleased the All Stars camp since his last outing, and Thornley can’t wait to drive him on Monday.

“It is very exciting to be able to drive a New Zealand Cup horse like him.”

“I have had a couple of drives behind him during the week, and he has worked really well.”

“We will just see how he steps away and take it from there.”

Millwood Nike looks set for a similar trip she had in her last start victory at Addington.

The filly will be stuck out on the outside of the front line, meaning she is every chance of sitting parked again.

She crushed a similar field when doing just that last time, and the same could play out again on Monday.

“She has come through her first-up run really well, and she has worked very well this week, too,” Thornley said.

Trotting star Oscar Bonavena has returned to racing in arguably the form of his career, this spring.

Though he has drawn outside the hot favourite in Muscle Mountain, the squaregaiter still looks a genuine threat after defeating him in his last start.

“He has worked well this week, too.”

“We have been really happy with the whole team.”

Thornley also combines with Major Hot at Ashburton on Monday.

The pacer looks a top 4 contender behind his stablemate, Vessem.

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