Thornley scores first win in sensational style
By Jonny Turner
Pre-race study paid off for Gemma Thornley when Nemera Franco produced a barnstorming finish to notch the junior driver’s first career win at Motukarara on Sunday.
Thornley got more than 15 lengths off the speed in the middle stages when driving the unbeaten mare, who is trained by her employer, Steven McRae.
Other rookie drivers may have panicked when driving a favourite in the same position, but Thornley showed a cool head.
The reinswoman had confidence in her charge because she put the time in to studying Nemera Franco’s race tapes and watching how her uncle, Craig Thornley, had previously driven the 5yr-old.
“I had watched her tapes and looked at how Craig had driven her in her first two races,” Thornley said.
“In her first start at Motukarara, he got a long way back with her and she finished off really well.”
“And I knew she could be a bit lazy in the running, so I wasn’t too worried when we got back in the field.”
Thornley got Nemera Franco rolling before the home turn, before the pair made a very wide bid in the home straight.
The Bettor’s Delight pacer wound in to her work stylishly to make up many lengths on the leaders, before going on to make Thornley’s first driving win a sensational one.
“Halfway down the straight, she put the burners on and sprinted past them and I knew I had it,” Thornley said.
The rookie reinswoman admitted the feeling of being a race winning driver took time to get used to.
“It is still sinking in, to be honest, I have been trying to take it all in, I guess.”
Thornley’s path to the winners circle was short, but not smooth.
She had driven in just eight races prior to her win, with several of those horses galloping out of contention.
“I have had a few rough drives.”
“It was good to have a nice horse to drive and to be trusted to do a good job by the boss.”
The reinswoman hopes driving her first winner will help boost her profile, so that she can secure more drives.
Thornley is the daughter of trainer-driver Chris Thornley.
She works alongside her uncle, Craig, at Spreydon Lodge.
And she is thoroughly enjoying her experience under head trainer Steven McRae.
“There are a lot of horses there and a lot of things to learn.”
“Driving the young ones is good for my education and having my uncle there is even easier.”
The Thornley family have enjoyed a good run of success in the new season.
Gemma is also related to Olivia Thornley, who has recently scored back to back wins with All Stars 3yr-old, Taxman.