Junior Drivers have achieved much over many years but few in the category since the days of Dexter Dunn have faced the thrills of a major raceday than Purdon Racing’s Olivia Thornley does at Ashburton on Monday.

The confident but modest driver has AKUTA, MILLWOOD NIKE and OSCAR BONAVENA among her assignments on a vital lead up day to the glamorous New Zealand Cup meeting at Addington next month.

It would be a daunting task for any young driver but within the past year Olivia Thornley’s methodical approach   has made it less challenging.

Since her Group 1 winning drive on No Matter Wat in the New Zealand Oaks she has earned increasing respect and support -enough to pinch hit for Natalie Rasmussen, the greatest female driver in our racing history in major races.

Natalie has had to postpone her return on medical advice but hopes to be in the cart again at Kaikoura.

As Olivia has already posted wins with Millwood Nike (the superstar’s first) and Oscar Bonavena the real pressure is around the Flying Stakes where she takes Natalie’s place behind Akuta in a vital leadup to the NZ Cup for which he is the warm favourite

That is chiefly because the race is a standing start. Because they are unusual in major races these days so their rarity can raise questions around them.

But  Olivia’s innate confidence, based on a lengthy “apprenticeship”  at Rolleston learning from the best and keeping  a “feet on the ground” approach, overcomes any doubts.

“Well I haven’t had a lot to do with Akuta but I have got to drive him this week in the leadup and that is an advantage. Mark has been giving me some advice and confidence and I am approaching it as another drive behind a top horse. It has worked for me so far”

Olivia’s latest complimentary driver reviews have been with Oscar Bonavena-a clever tactical drive in the D G Jones Memorial, and an astute judgement of pace running down Muscle Mountain at Addington last week. She is close to Millwood Nike so it is business as usual there. Akuta can add another dimension to her growing list of accomplishments.

Mark is confident Olivia is up to the task.His advice has been around the first few strides of the race.

“He is not a hard horse to handle.Sensible and doesn’t do much wrong. I have just said to Olivia to be calm when they say go.” Mark said

“Its best to let  him take those  first four strides. Not to pressure him at that stage. let him find his feet. Once he has done that  everything should fall into place for them.”

Olivia prefers to take the approach that it is another day at the races. That approach has worked through some very big wins on the tracks so far.

Of course it is more than just another day at the races. No Junior Driver has won the Flying Stakes -including Dexter Dunn.

The good news is that Olivia’s practical approach is the best sign that everything will be right on the day.





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