Working holiday in the north for Clarke

by Garrick Knight

An unfamiliar name appears in the drivers lists for Sunday’s meeting at Cambridge as a Canterbury junior driver embarks on a working holiday in the north.

Hayley Clarke will drive two horses for Ohaupo trainers Jason and Megan Teaz, including a likely favourite in Miss Blissful.

After helping out Michael House at the two-day Hawera meeting over Easter, Clarke ventured north this week and joined the husband and wife training partnership as she looks to broaden her horizons in harness racing.

The first goal will be to record that elusive first driving win, something she says will be aided by driving for someone other than just her father, trainer Steve Clarke.

“I only really drive for Dad and he hasn’t had a nice one for a few years.”

Clarke recently finished third behind Nadira Franco at Reefton when the rank outsider paying $27.80 to place, which gives you an indication of just how hard it has been for her to find that first winner.

“Driving has always been more of a hobby for me, but I’ve always wanted to give it a bit of a crack.

“And that’s why this opportunity worked out nicely.

“With my job back home, working full time five days a week, there was no point trying to ring up and get drives at, say Forbury Park on a Thursday night.

“Plus, I’ve always been heavily in to hockey – I play a couple of times a week.”

Jason Teaz works the New Zealand Racing Board as a commentator and presenter and often spends up to a week at a time away in the South Island, leaving Megan to do a majority of the work with their team of a dozen.

After talking to Clarke, it become apparent that he would be able to give Megan some respite and help Clarke branch out as well.

“Jason sort of said to me that if I ever wanted some work in the North Island, they’d be happy to have me.

“It wasn’t an option for me, really, but Dad said why don’t I see if work will let me take some leave and go up there for the experience.

“Luckily work have given me the time off. I’ve got six weeks available so I’m thinking I’ll be up here for around a month.”

Clarke got the chance to jog Miss Blissful on Thursday morning ahead of their partnering up on Sunday.

The Pegasus Spur mare brings strong Auckland form in to the race and, under the conditions, will not incur a penalty if victorious given Clarke is a junior driver.

“Megan thought it was best that I don’t fast work at home because she works a lot differently to how she races, so she didn’t want me to get the wrong impression.

“She thinks it will be better if I find out for myself on race day.”

Rather than feel the pressure - possibly for the first time in her 90-drive career - of piloting two strong chances, Clarke is just happy to be afforded the opportunity she otherwise wouldn’t have in her home province.

“I’m so grateful to Jason and Megan for giving me the opportunity; Megan didn’t even know me before I came up and now she’s put me on a horse she drives every week.

“The timing is really good with these races this week (Errol Finn is in a junior drivers’ race) and I’m just lucky they’ve got the confidence in me to put me on.

“Hopefully I can repay that faith by driving a winner for them.”

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