THE gifts just keep coming for talented reinsman Zac Phillips.
Having turned 21 earlier this week, Phillips received the perfect birthday present at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight by capturing his first Group One with class young trotter Une Belle Allure.
Barely given time to rejoice the occasion, Phillips was back on the track 30 minutes later for the Lyn McPherson Breed For Speed Final.
Partnering exciting mare Red Hot Tooth, Phillips not only reined the daughter of Yankee Paco to victory, he claimed his second Group One in the process.
“I just can’t believe this…it is a night I will never forget,” Phillips declared. “To win my first Group One is amazing, but to get another on the same night is something special.
“To get this win for Kari and Paul Males is terrific as they have supported me from the time I began driving and showed faith in me all along.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for trainers like them who give me these opportunities.”
After working to the lead from barrier four, Red Hot Tooth dug deep along the home straight to score from Heavenly Sister and Illawong Helios.
Covering the last half in 56.9 seconds, the four-year-old stretched her record to 10 wins and seven placings from 25 starts by rating a slick 1:55.2 over 1720 metres.
Phillips’ Group One double, and rise to the top of the Concession Drivers’ Premiership, speaks volumes of his dedication towards his craft.
Unlike most of his counterparts, Phillips entered the world of harness racing with no solid ties to the industry.
Widely regarded as a family-based sport, harness racing typically breeds generation after generation of participants, who usually ‘get the breaks’ thanks to their successful relatives.
So to forge a successful career in the industry with no ready-made background is always going to be difficult.
Although his father Lucky, has “knocked around” with astute horseman Robbie O’Connell “since they were kids”, life in a stable wasn’t a given for Phillips.
After spending the majority of his teenage years in Queensland, Phillips returned to Melbourne where he soon discovered his passion and talent for driving.
“I was born in Melbourne, but spent a lot of years growing up in Queensland,” Phillips said. “Up there I didn’t have anything to do with horses, but once we moved back to Victoria and I started to go to Robbie’s with Dad, I just caught the bug.
“As soon as I got my trials licence and starting getting out on the track, I knew there nothing else for me.
“Robbie was insistent I had plenty of trial drives before I went anywhere near the races. His advice proved spot on as it gave me plenty of ground work during those early days.”
Despite his unorthodox beginning, Phillips wasted little time proving his natural talent in the sulky.
Although he finished unceremoniously last upon debut, Phillips quickly found his way into the winners’ circle, scoring with the O’Connell-trained Driving Withtess at Bendigo on July 14, 2012.
Since his initial victory, Phillips has cut a regular path to the number one stall with more wins destined to come his way.
- PAUL COURTS