MICHELLE Phillips had a spring in her step at work at Chris Svanoso's Junortoun stables on Wednesday morning.
The emerging young reinswomen was still on a high after notching up the first win in her comeback from an eight-week suspension.
Phillips wasted no time picking up from where she left off before her enforced break by steering the John Gilbertson-trained Sondel to a long-shot victory in a NR 52-55 pace at Shepparton on Tuesday night.
It was the 21-year-old concession drivers only drive for the night, her first back in the sulky after the suspension, and ultimately a relief.
"I was a bit nervous as I went out to the parade ring, but they quickly went away and it all came back to me when I was out on the track," she said.
"I was on a good roll and then I copped eight weeks; it was tough. The first couple of weeks in particular were very hard.
"But now I'm back with a bounce in my stride and back to the winners' circle."
The drive at Shepparton was her first on the Bendigo East-trained six-year-old, who has won just four of 102 starts, but also been placed 29 times.
"Chris was the one who got me on the horse - but I'll take it," Phillips said.
Unless something unexpected pops up, Phillips, a graduate of the Gippsland harness racing School and former Harness Racing Victoria scholarship winner, will next head to Terang on Tuesday.
It will be another chance for her to recapture the momentum she had building before her suspension.
An especially successful period included a double for the powerful Emma Stewart-Clayton Tonkin stable at Bendigo in May, and another previously at Mildura in April.
An exciting seven week period was capped with her first metropolitan winner aboard the Shaun McNaulty-trained Fratellino on June 1, a victory which, two and a half months on, still gives her goosebumps.
"He was my first metropolitan winner, he won the Maori's Idol Trotting Championship and he was also my first trotters cup winner," Phillips said.
"He was also my first ever race drive and we finished second.
"We'd been through a lot with that horse. To get him as my first metro winner was unbelievable.
"The tears came, I couldn't contain them. It was an emotional rollercoaster that's for sure."
Phillips speaks glowingly of her brief taste of driving for the state's leading trainer Stewart and her May 28 double with Major Times and Ideal Conquest.
She hopes the opportunity may again present itself going forward.
"They are just like a car, you press a button and off they go," Phillips said.
"It's an amazing experience to be able to sit behind their horses."
Phillips' win on Sondel, who paid $33.30 the win, was one of four involving Bendigo region drivers or trainers on Tuesday night, all at nice odds.
Dingee trainer Trish McVeigh scored with her five-year-old gelding Clem McCardle ($12.90); the team of trainer Aaron Bain and driver Alex Ashwood combined with the six-year-old pacer Starlight Rainbow ($10.30); while Svanosio got things rolling with a driving win aboard the Ruth Arthur-trained Wild Imagination ($13.80) in the night's opening race.
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