Pic: Olivia with one of her special favourites Cruz Bromac after his NZ Cup win

As a G1 winning driver,Olivia Thornley,who reignites her training career at Rangiora Tuesday is not sure how the young trotter,Starstruck, will fare first time to the trials. But she knows from experience the potential to succeed is there.

“The family has been with us for quite a while.Dad had the granddam Armour Lea and I can remember her from when I was young. She won a race at Addington first up as a two year old and then broke down and only had the two starts. Most of the foals I remember either won a race or were good enough to win. It’s a good family going back,at least as far as the foals I can recall”

“I trained a half-brother when I first got my licence and he qualified but he went wrong and didn’t race. This filly is going along ok but it is early days yet and I am not putting my hopes too high in a first trial. She is by Volstead and they are natural two year olds and that should suit the family. As I say they usually show something so I am looking forward to where she might go”

Olivia trains Starstruck in her own time after work at Purdon stables is finished. She can look back on a stellar 2023 with her  Group One winner in Chase a Dream in a daring drive in the Sires Stakes Final in Cup week -her second. having taken out the New Zealand Oaks with No Matter Wat at the end of 2022.

She got Chase a Dream home narrowly once again in a Sires Stakes heat last week though Natalie returns to drive this week. If there is another Group One winner in the wings for 2024, Olivia, who has made patience a byword in her raceday driving,is taking a laid back approach.

“Don’t know ! I just go with the flow and if it comes along it comes along”

Olivia has now been at the Purdon stables for some eight years and the decision to stay so long has paid off in terms of top level driving of top level horses. The Thornley name has been familiar to most harness followers for many years and handling a trotter came as easily to Olivia as handling a pacer-not always the way with young drivers making their way.

She has of course handled Oscar Bonavena at the highest level and in fact her first trotting winner Don’t Rock the Boat,trained by Robin Thornley,was just her fourth winning drive  back in May 2018 after a typically calm steer home from the one-one at $28 odds.

Can Starstruck do something similar ?

“As I said I’m not expecting too much at this stage but she shows some promise and I am hoping she gets to show what she can do but time will be on her side”



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