Sarah O’Reilly (far left) is one of 13 women taking part in the Lady Drivers Challenge at Westport and Reefton this week.

The popular, six-week Team Teal campaign will reach a thrilling climax on the West Coast this weekend with two races set aside for female drivers.

The Lady Drivers Challenge is a two-race series at Westport on Friday and then again at Reefton on Sunday.

New Zealand’s all-time winningest female driver, Nicky Chilcott, also a Team Teal ambassador, will make the trip down from Cambridge for the series.

“We’re not a revenue-gathering club, we just get out there and promote the industry as best we can.

Westport Trotting Club President, John Reedy Jnr, says his club realise their role in harness racing and felt a duty to do their part for the campaign.

“We understand that our role in harness racing is to promote it as best we can.

“People come to our meeting and leave with a positive attitude.

“We’re not a revenue-gathering club, we just get out there and promote the industry as best we can.

“We were looking for a point of difference for this meeting so got together with Reefton and came up with this concept.

“And if we’d got 30 nominations for the race, we would have gone to HRNZ and asked them for permission to run two races.”

The winning driver will get a trophy and Westport TC has pledged to double its contribution to the Team Teal Fund from the race.

“There are quite a few other initiatives happening to support the cause as well.

“We run a punters club and after every race you go in to a draw to win a $100 bet.

“Half of the profits from those bets will go to the ‘Teal’ campaign.

“We’ll also be actively seeking bucket donations at the free barbecue we run after the meeting.”

Reedy says the advancement of ladies in the harness industry is to be applauded and celebrated.

“Thirty years ago, the trainers’ wives turned up in pearls and did the morning teas.

“Today they’re out their driving, they work their arses off in the stables and have become a huge part of harness racing.

“There are some outstanding lady drivers out there.

“Just look at Sam Ottley.

“She had a bad smash here a few years ago and I thought it might ruin her career, but she came out of it just as good, if not better.”

The Club has also changed the name of the Kawatiri Cup this year, to honour two of its biggest supporters, who have fallen on hard times recently.

This year it is being run as the Margo Nyhan/Peter Davis Kawatiri Cup, to acknowledge the popular training pair who are out of action with injuries after a horror road accident on Waitangi Day.

Three of their horses, The Jandel Machine, Overzealous and Awesome Official, will be in action under the temporary care of Steven McRae and David and Catherine Butt.

“We are hoping Margo might make it on course, which would be super,” said Reedy Jnr.

“They’re having a bad run at present, but they’re two of the most popular figures at our meeting.

“Pete has the second-best smile in harness racing after Craig Thornley.

“You wouldn’t meet a warmer, more welcoming person and as long as I’ve known him, he’s always made an effort to help people.

“It’s just unfair what happened to them.”

Davis will be out of action for at least six months with numerous back, neck and rib fractures.

“I have to give credit to our Vice President, Troy Scanlon, for this.

“He’s an ideas man and this is something he just plucked out of the sky.”

Reedy Jnr and his father have an added interest in the lady drivers’ race with Ford Rule, which is owned by them and their wives and trained by Bob Butt.

They’ve secured the sought-after services of Ottley for the race which will likely make it the favourite.

“There’s a lot on the line! A bit of pressure to win and we’re looking forward to it.”

Sarah O’Reilly is a junior driver making waves at present – she won five races in February and is making her first trip to the Coast.

“It’s my first time; I’ve never been there for the races, or even just to Westport.

“I’d never driven at Palmerston North or Gore either, but it turned out well winning races at both of those places on my first visits.

“So hopefully it’s the same again this week.”

O’Reilly partners Em Ay, a Bruce Negus-trained mare who is just one start returned from a two-year break away from the track.

“She was in the broodmare paddock but the foal died so Bruce brought her back in to work.

“She should improve a lot with that first-up run at Oamaru and we’ve got the draw (two) to work with this week.

“Most of the time at Westport, the winners seem to come from the fence or in front, so hopefully we can settle there and be a chance.”

Winning the Lady Drivers Challenge would be a huge thrill for the Rakaia horsewoman.

“I think it’s really cool that they’re having this series.

“There is only one other ladies’ race – at Timaru – and to have this as the finale for the Team Teal campaign is a great idea.”

O’Reilly is proud to have been able to contribute greatly to this year’s campaign by winning on the first weekend and four more times since.

“I’m really happy because last year I didn’t get a winner for Team Teal at all, but with five this year I feel like I have done my part.”

For three of the ladies competing, there is an extra motivation to get the win.

Victory for Kendra Gill (Hes Fast And Furious), Ashleigh Stewart (Fortune Tiller) or Hayley Clarke (Clarendon