BATHED in champagne and with a satisfied grin Ryan Sanderson saw out a 2023 to remember, producing an outstanding trio of Garrard’s Horse and Hound Young Guns Series wins to claim a place in history and an outstanding milestone.
Sanderson was the inaugural winner of the first Melton New Year’s Eve series, which was brilliantly contested by its 10 combatants who reminded of harness racing’s bright future.
Sitting second last in the one-night series after four of the eight races, Sanderson carved out wins on Arggghhh, Cherokee Jac and finally Te Amo to clinch Garrard’s terrific first prize by 20 points from second-placed Taylor Youl (54 points) and third-placed Declan Murphy (53 points).
The last of those wins not only clinched the series for Sanderson but also brought up his 100th win of the season.
“The night couldn’t have gone any better,” he told TrotsVision. “I knew I probably had to drive three winners to win. I was just lucky enough that I had good horses. The races just panned out perfect for me, over the moon.”
New Year’s Eve has long drawn one of harness racing’s biggest crowds of the year as the Melton community turns out for entertainment and fireworks, but the move of the industry’s prized Vicbred Super Series from the night to September created a void.
Harness Racing Victoria introduced the Young Gun Series to showcase its talented under-25 drivers and it proved a hit, with thrilling racing, great competition and a suitably gifted winner.
“This series has been great for all the drivers and I’ve just been lucky enough to win it,” Sanderson said.
“All the trainers have had them perfect on the day. I was just lucky everything’s fallen into place. Stoked.”
Declan Murphy made the early running after the winning the series’ first race on The Answer, with placings in the fourth and seventh races keeping him in the hunt throughout.
Taylor Youl also loomed prominently, winning with Chinese Whisper and Micton Mouse to join Sanderson as the only other dual winner.
Ryan Backhouse (Aldebaran Demi) and Jordan Leedham (Starzzz Destiny) were also first past the post, but Sanderson was peerless in the night’s final race on favourite Te Amo, emerging from the running line to take the lead around the final turn and clear out for a comfortable, clinching victory.
“Around the corner I was excited,” he said. “He probably just knocked off a little and wasn’t trotting the best, so I had my heart in my mouth, but I was pretty confident he was home and housed then.
“I’ve set a goal to get as many drives as I can and crack a 100 winners. I had to drive three tonight to get my 100th for the season and it couldn’t have gone any better for me.”
In fact, soon after being bathed in champagne to celebrate his series win he was back on the track for the final race – the Hygain Pace – when he brought up win number four for the night and 101 for the season in the last of Victorian harness racing’s year.
- HRV Media