Manilla reinswoman Courtney Sutherland is about to contest the biggest feature race in her short career when she tackles the KARI JC Caffyn Indigenous Drivers Invitational Final at Menangle on Sunday.
“I am excited,” said Sutherland when she realised she had drawn the one barrier with the Ben Settree-trained Passions Delight. “I don’t think I could have drawn a better horse.”
Sutherland followed her dream after her first heat drive in the Invitational, at Tamworth last season, before ramping up her campaign and competing in the 2018 series – and now the young reinswoman is “right into it”.
Sutherland contested the first two heats of the series after a nine-hour road trip to Wagga before then contesting a further two heats at Maitland.
After a fourth placing at Wagga behind the David Micallef-trained Rocknroll Queen and a third with the Trevor White-trained Lauriston Dash, it was then a switch to the Maitland leg of the series to notch up a fifth with the Darren Elder-trained Neverhaveiever and a fourth with Payonthepacer, from the Michael Osborn stables.
Sutherland gained enough points from her four drives to receive an invite for the $15,000 final.
Only 10 drivers received an invite, from the 16 indigenous drivers who contested the heats – with two heats also contested at Parkes.
Under the series’ format, drivers do not meet the horse and the trainer they are paired with until they are about to race.
Sutherland said: “I have done my form – she (Passions Delight) has had 27 starts and only missed out on a cheque on five occasions and has won nearly $92,000 – she is a monster.”
Passions Delight (Bettors Delight-Passions Promise) comes into the 1609 metre final off a last-start win at Bathurst on October 17.
“I can’t believe I’m driving at Menangle,” said Sutherland. “Menangle Club and Michael Brown (the director at Menangle) have really got behind it all.”
Sutherland has goosebumps thinking about what she has achieved.
“I think it has been a great learning curve – more young indigenous drivers should be part of it. It’s amazing,” she said.
“Definitely worth it – meeting new people, driving different horses, the experience of a lifetime. I’m happy that I branched out and had a go – very rewarding.
“It is definitely something amazing for me. I think I am on the best horse I will ever drive in my life.
“The horse has got some good gate speed. I think she can lead and I hope she stays there.”
Sutherland has progressed from the early days of mini-trot racing at Tamworth to driving alongside her father Chris on the small Manilla Showground track and then winning races at Tamworth behind her own pacer, Jax Tellar
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