TOP honours might have gone the way of Victoria's leading trainer Emma Stewart at Lord's Raceway on Tuesday night, but it was the drives by two of the sport's most promising young reinswomen that were every bit worthy of mentions.
As anticipated, the combination of Stewart and reinsman Greg Sugars supplied the winners of both heats of the Breeders Crown Series for two-year-old fillies with hot favourites Maajida ($1.10) and Jemstone ($1.80).
Not uncommonly Stewart was able to quinella the opening heat, with Treasure, driven by Chris Alford, nearly playing the role of spoiler by taking the fight right up to Maajida, who peeled off her fifth straight win at start number six.
But earlier, it was a pair of Heathcote-bred products - Tayla French and Shannon O'Sullivan - who made their impression on the eight-race card.
French struck first by scoring her third win aboard the Lynne Mercieca-trained Illawong Lively at the long odds of $43.30.
That win was followed in quick succession by O'Sullivan on the Greg Norman-trained The Deal ($1.50) in a concession drivers pace.
It was the 20-year-old's first drive for the long-time trainer, who has enjoyed some success since relocating six horses from his South Australian stable to Charlton in early June.
Norman was quick to rate O'Sullivan's drive as a '10 out of 10'.
"She drove it a treat . That's the first drive she's had for us, so she is 100 per cent," he said.
"The horse went very well for her, I dare say she might retain the steer on him, we will see what happens."
"He's a nice handy horse - his greatest claim to fame is that he won the Broken Hill Cup."
A sixth career win for the much-travelled The Deal, whose previous victories have come at Globe Derby, Port Pirie, Cobram and Broken Hill, was the 14th this season for O'Sullivan.
Equally effusive in her praise was Toolleen trainer Mercieca, after watching French score her third win aboard Illawong Lively in the Gold Central Victoria Pace (2150m).
The same gelding provided the 22-year-old with his first career win just a few weeks short of 12 months ago. The pair also teamed for a win at Kilmore in April.
"All I can say is she drove him to perfection," said Mercieca about French's win on the nine -year-old gelding, who has now won 13 races and been placed 21 times in 134 starts.
"It was the right race and the right moves from Tayla.
"I wasn't over-confident and I wasn't under-confident, but I was hoping we could get the win. He's that kind of horse, where one day you have it, the next day you don't.
"He's a lovely horse to work with, he really is. While he's sound we will keep him on the move."
Mercieca, who has five horses in work at her base, about 30 minutes from Bendigo, was pleased to see both young drivers progress their career with wins on Tuesday.
"I reckon Shannon would have been pretty excited as well," she said.
"It's a good thing for the young ones, it gives them plenty of confidence.
"They're our sport's future, hopefully they keep it up."
Another of the state's emerging stars, Ballarat's James Herbertson finished the meeting with four winners, all at very nice prices.
His haul, for four different trainers, was achieved aboard Hugo Rocks ($7), Irish Player ($17.40), Valentina Brave ($8.10) and Nuggetpan ($14.80).
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