Sarah O'Reilly with parents Jane and Gerard after her first driving win. Photo: Race Images.
It’s taken a few months and a couple more drives than she would have liked, but Sarah O’Reilly is resting easy this week knowing that one of the biggest challenges in her short driving career to date is now behind her.
The quietly-spoken youngster notched up the first win of her driving career at Motukarara on Sunday after 72 attempts when she found the perfect gap to push through with Highland Reign in the final race of the day.
And in her succinct sort of way, the Kidz Kartz graduate was pretty chuffed.
“It felt pretty good, especially after taking a while to come,” she said.
While trying not to focus too much on it and adding pressure on her shoulders, O’Reilly said she’s just been trying to get as much experience as she can out there on the track and she’s had the assistance of some well-credentialed mentors, too.
To borrow a racing phrase, O’Reilly doesn’t lack for anything in the bloodlines department.
Her father is well-regarded horseman Gerard O’Reilly, while she’s also been able to call on the skills and expertise of her uncles, Patrick, Kerry and Leo along the way too plus the added experience of her employer, Bruce Negus.
“Dad’s been great and has made sure I wasn’t worrying about it too much and just letting it happen.
“But we have this new mentor system now too, and my mentor is Sam Ottley and she’s been great helping me out with pre-race plans and doing form and everything like that.
“I’ve been pretty lucky.”
Getting that first winner on a horse trained by Negus was special too as he’s been one the biggest supporters of her in her career thus far.
“Bruce is fantastic, he’s never put any pressure on me but allowed me to drive a heap of his horses and not been too worried about the result.
“He’s a great boss to work for, too.”
With win one on the board, it’s only onwards and upwards from here and O’Reilly’s looking forward to what the future might hold.
“I just want to be out there driving and learning and getting better all the time.”
Picking up a win in Dad’s distinctive green and white colours is at the top of the list.