Day At The Track

O'Briens making their own luck

12:04 PM 11 Jun 2019 NZST
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Im Sir Blake,Harness racing
Im Sir Blake with co-trainer Leroy (front) and driver Kerryn Manning
Mildura HRC

Young Armstrong harness racing trainer Leroy O’Brien is the first to admit that a small amount of luck has gone a long way.

But whether it’s been good fortune, hard work or perhaps an eye for detail, 27 year old O’Brien and his father and co-trainer Danny have been certainly reaping the rewards.

Their latest success was courtesy of super-impressive Im Sir Blake (Alta Christiano NZ-Jupiters Darling (Dream Away) in the $25,000 Mitavite Northern Region Championship at Mildura last Thursday. The pacer, driven by Kerryn Manning (her second success in the feature event) was awesome in winning by 20 metres in 1.58-3.

Click here for the race replay of the Northern Region Championship 

“It’s a five-hour road trip to Mildura, but we’re not complaining because we’ve gone up there three times and come home with three winners,” O’Brien said.

Im Sir Blake was a touch unlucky not to go through the Championship series undefeated. He was awesome in winning his first heat at Swan Hill late last month, and then galloped across the line at the next round of heats at Ouyen, only to be relegated from first to second.

O’Brien paid the bargain price of $4000 for Im Sir Blake as a yearling at a Shepparton All-aged mixed sale – the same sale where two years earlier he snapped up a then-unraced Imprincessgemma for a rock-bottom “$900 plus GST”.

“The filly caught my eye just in the way she carried herself and Im Sir Blake looked like a well-gaited type,” Leroy said.

“We are very lucky to have some horses with so much ability.”

Imprincessgemma (Village Jolt-Melody Strike (In The Pocket), raced by Leroy and his mum Sharryn, has won 11 from 25 starts for $107,000. Im Sir Blake, owned by Leroy and his dad Danny, has won seven for $58,000. Their other stable racehorse is Michelle Wonson-owned 2yo trotter Molly’s Purse, a recent winner of the $30,000 Group Two NSW trot final at Menangle.

“I have to be honest and say we’ve had some nice offers to buy Im Sir Blake, but it’s sort of a lifetime thing with him,” O’Brien said.

“My dad deserves the horse and does most of the work with him. Im Sir Blake waits at the gate for him – they’re really the best of mates,” he said.

“I’d probably rate the horse as the best I’ve ever had although a trotter we had, Suave Jay, equalled the Mildura track record a couple of years ago and he went okay.

“But Im Sir Blake is super quick and can do a bit of work. He’s a lovely little fella and I think we’ll now aim him at the upcoming Sires.”

O’Brien said the horse was named after his sister Kirsty’s oldest child, Blake, while her daughter Gemma comes into play in Imprincessgemma.

The father and son training partnership has been “on fire” this season with 15 wins and nine placings from 29 starts, for $106,000 in stakes.

It’s a real family affair as Danny, a mental health nurse, and Leroy, a plumber, do as much as possible at the stables before heading off to work. Mum Sharryn, a disability support worker, is, according to Leroy, the backbone.

“Mum feeds up and helps out wherever she can, and my fiancée Kristy also does a great job. You just need that massive support to keep ticking along,” he said.

Leroy and Kristy recently became engaged and nine weeks ago welcomed son Tommy into their lives.

“You could say that it’s all happening,” Leroy said laughing.

“I suppose we’ve fallen on our feet with a lot of good luck, but you still have to put in the work for the success to keep coming,” he said.

 

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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