Otago Daily Times

Ottley becomes second woman to drive 500 winners in NZ

- JONNY TURNER

SAMANTHA Ottley made history at Oamaru yesterday by becoming just the second woman to notch 500 driving wins in New Zealand.

Ottley reached the milestone driving Deceptive Lee in the second leg of her 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 500racewin­ning female driver.

Although proud to be something of a pioneer herself, Ottley says the large number of women in the driving ranks in New Zealand means she does not 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 in the Harness Jewels 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.

“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.

“You never forget your first win, either.

“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 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 tomorrow night at Addington it would top an incredible week for Ottley.

“That is fairytale stuff. She is a nice fill and she is going super.”

“Onwards and upwards, hopefully.”

Milestones like yesterday’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.”

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

 ??  ?? Samantha Ottley
Samantha Ottley

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