TAYLA French has again showed why she is regarded as one of the state's best young driving prospects, steering home her 13th winner of the 2019-20 racing season at Thursday's Elmore Pacing Cup meeting.
The 21-year-old demonstrated plenty of patience and poise to score a fighting victory aboard Nelbell, who is trained at Heathcote by her father Terry French.
French was the second of three female drivers to land a winner for a parent at Elmore on Boxing Day.
Eighteen-year-old Olivia Weidenbach started the ball rolling, claiming the honours in the day's opening race with Stuart for her mother Rosemarie Weidenbach, while 20-year-old Shannon O'Sullivan made it three later in the day by winning the Elmore Pacing Cup on Fourstarzzzspecial for her father Jim O'Sullivan.
A win for Nelbell continued a return to form for the nine-year-old mare, who made it back-to-back victories following her success at Bendigo on December 13.
It was also the break French had been looking for on Boxing Day, after a second placing aboard Form Analyst earlier in the afternoon and a fourth on Joey's Hangover, both of whom are trained by her father.
"It was good to finally get one," a relieved French said post-race.
"Form Analyst is a pretty consistent horse ... dad and I have only had him for about six starts, but he's a strong horse and I think we are going to have a bit of fun with him.
"Joey's Hangover was just a bit underdone, he'd had a couple of weeks off away from the race track, although he's still been in work.
"For Nelbell, it's back-to-back. She surprised us at Bendigo last week with a win and she did again (Thursday).
"I felt she had a chance, but I didn't really expect her to feel the way she did around those tight turns.
"I didn't notice that (she paid $11.60), she was clearly one of the second best horses in the race and she cruised past the favourite (Sheer Modern) easily."
The win capped a productive couple of months for French, who notched five winners in October and a further four during November.
Even more exciting for the ultra-talented reinswoman has been the opportunities extended to her by some of the state's bigger trainers.
"I've had a lot of big trainers call and ask me to drive their horses and given me a chance," she said.
"It's helped get my experience up and it's been a lot of fun.
"I've only been driving about 16 months, so things are really starting to come together.
"I'm loving it ... partnering up with dad is my favourite thing about it. When I win for him it's a real achievement, hence my big salute as I was going across the line (on Nelbell).
"He does a lot of the work, as I work during the day (at Heathcote Primary Health), but I help him here and there with working and feeding the horses and then come to the races at night and steer for him."
Adding to her enjoyment in the sport, French has continued her association with former Bendigo trainer Chris Svanosio, by travelling 'three or four times a week' to his new base at Romsey to help with the stable's growing team of horses.
"It's a really good place down there and I think things are really looking up for Chris - he has a very bright future ahead with the horses and staff and lifestyle he has down there," she said.
"The people at (Heathcote Primary Health) are really good to me too. It's great having two occupations."
French's victory aboard Nelbell added to a total of seven wins involving Bendigo region trainers and drivers.
The list included Elmore pacing Cup winner Fourstarzzspecial, Animated (trained and driven by Ross Graham), Imnopumpkin (trained by Mary-Jane Mifsud and driven by Glenn Douglas), Juniper (trained by Elmore's Keith Cotchin), Elmore Trotters Cup winner Scottish Sardius for Waanyarra trainer Peter Sanderson, and Ajay Breezy Rose (driven by Goornong's Nigel Milne).
A prolific day was completed by veteran Carisbrook trainer Ray Cross, who scored a race-to-race double at Ballarat on Thursday night with Honey Please and Ima Calvert Rose.
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