Harness racing trainer Robert Dunn was presented with the ideal opportunity at the Banks Penninsula Trotting Clubs meeting at Motukarara Monday ( April 5 ), to farewell stable employee Devon Van Til on the highest of notes behind stable runner High Flying Harry in race nine on the program.
The talented young reinswomen failed to spoil her leaving party as she expertly steered the three year old son of Bettor’s Delight to a three quarter length victory over the economically driven Caesars Quest, and the fast finishing Duffy Hollow in the McMillan Feed Barn-Trainer Of The Year Mobile Pace.
For the 29 year old the victory was bittersweet, being her last drive under the guidance of the country’s leading stable. “I’ve learnt so much over the past two and a half years for from Robert and all the team, and in particular Johnny (Dunn). I can’t thank them enough for their guidance, but it’s time to move on and learn more from someone else now,” van Til said.
The smile on her face after the line was hard to disguise for the former top equestrian rider, who’s naturally competitive streak gives her the perfect platform to launch a career as a harness racing driver. “I’ve always strived to win, and yesterday was such a good feeling, I want more of it. I know it won’t be easy, but I’m determined to succeed, or at least give it my best shot,” she said.
While van Til had previously enjoyed a successful career in show jumping, representing the South Island and winning numerous Champion Hunter titles, harness racing offered the perfect challenge to further her career and continue her love of horses. “I was managing the Birchbrook Equestrian Centre for Dave and Cath Butt and got to know the harness racing crew through them. I’ve always loved sport and competition. I had one drive in the sulky down at the beach behind a horse called Letspendanitetogetha, and I was hooked.”
For the Breckon Racing Syndicate owned High Flying Harry, his most recent win should have come as no surprise to punters following a string of minor placings and a consistent formline. Although at odds of 12-1, it seemed to surprise a few. After drawing wide behind the gate, van Til elected to go forward rather than fight the big gelding, a decision which proved to be the winning of the race for the pair. “I didn’t want to fight him, so I just let him do his thing. I was lucky enough to get cover into the strong wind down the back, and getting the run late worked out perfect for him. He’s a much better horse chasing them, then being left in front on his own,” she said.
So where to now for Devon van Til?
“I’m keen to stay in harness racing, and learn from as many people as I can. For now I’ll take a short break, help my partner Steve (Dolan) with his horses, and hopefully squeeze in a few hunts before I take on another full time role.”
Devon van Til has had 14 drives to date, with a win and six minor placings for a UDR of .2619.