It’s been a stellar first season at Kentuckiana Lodge by Sarah O’Reilly, who joined the team in September, 2019.
Sarah, winner of last year’s McMillan Equine Feeds NZ Junior Driver Championship in just her second season, added the Australasian Young Drivers Championship to her impressive junior record in December.
She was also named Young New Zealand Rural Sportsperson of the Year at the Norwood Sports Awards.
Other highlights were winning a race named in honour of her grand-father, the Pat O’Reilly sen Memorial at Methven with trotter, Ideal Invasion, and progressing to 44 overall wins (24 this season).
She belongs to one of NZ’ most respected and trusted harness racing families, being the daughter of Rakaia parents, Gerard and Jane.
Gerard, the former NZ driver of former top NZ pacer Tiger Tara, has been a successful trainer-driver in Canterbury since the early 1980s.
Gerard’s brothers, Patrick, Kerry and Leo, have also made notable contributions as trainer-drivers from their mid-Canterbury stables.
Sarah’s late grand-father, Pat sen., had the distinction of never being suspended or fined during a 40-year race driving career.
Pat. sen was a NZ Cup-winning reinsman, winning with Spry in 1969.
Latterly, he also trained 15-race winner and smart 1980s pacer, Norton, including the 1984 Gr.2 Easter Cup at Addington when driven by son, Kerry, beating Ben, Direct Kiwi and Hands Down.
Sarah, following the guidance of her father, gained her first career win for another employer, Bruce Negus, behind Highland Reign, at Motukarara, on April 2, 2018. She scored four wins in her debut term.
She all but won her first-up Kentuckiana Lodge drive for the season at Addington on September 13, 2019, behind consistent mare Donegal Mary Francis.
But, to be sure, to be sure, a week later they justified their hot $1.90 favouritism at Invercargill, leading throughout the penalty-free junior drivers pace.
The Irish luck of driver and owner (Sarah wearing the Donegal green owners colours of Kaikoura’s Murray Boyd) was too much for their opposition, with Sarah controlling the pace to a nicety. Donegal Mary Francis delivered by 2 1/2 lengths, the first of many to follow for the stable.