BEFORE last Sunday, the last time concession driver Ryan Sanderson left the Charlton Harness Racing Club track it was in an air ambulance.
The 17-year-old was the victim of a nasty race fall after being tipped out of the cart while driving Frankie on October 19 last year.
Sanderson became airborne before crashing to the track and being hit by a trailing horse.
He was treated by paramedics at the racecourse for at least an hour before being flown by helicopter to Melbourne's Alfred Hospital.
Despite initial fears he had broken his pelvis, Sanderson was later diagnosed with a bruised lung and was free to return home to Sydney after a few days.
Fast forward five months and he was back at Charlton for cup day with a book of four rides for his father Shane Sanderson, with the family only having made the move to Charlton from their former base at Menangle Park during the week.
The accomplished young reinsman was quick to make his mark, piloting the $6 chance Dikerry to victory in the second of 10 races on the program.
"Dad and I thought he had a very good chance in the race, he's had 12-weeks off since an injury, but he's got a good ticker and he showed it," Ryan said.
"I really liked the way he got home, he's probably one of our favourites at home.
"It was good to get the first winner on the board (from Charlton).
"At least I completed the track," he added with a laugh, in reference to his fall last year.
Ryan said the fall was something he had not dwelled on much since last year, or in particular, during cup week.
"We had a little joke here and there about completing the track, but it's all fun," he said.
"It was good getting a win at the first meeting here, mum (Naomi) and dad and my sister Abbey, they all put the hard effort in, so it was good to see the result.
"It's a good sign for the future I think, I feel we will do pretty well here.
"It's a great training facility here for us to take the next step."
As well as helping the family, Sanderson said he was keen to progress his own career while in Victoria and believed with so many tracks within easy-distance of Charlton, he was definitely in the right spot to pursue his goal.
"The next 12 months, I reckon dad's team will be up in numbers, but for me, I'll be trying to get as many drives as I can and as many opportunities," he said.
"We will see how it goes."
Dikerry's win came as no real surprise to Shane Sanderson, who earlier in the week nominated the son of Mach Three as the best of his cup day chances.
"The horse has been going well, his first-up run was terrific and we were actually quietly confident," he said.
"We were probably a little bit worried about the favourite (Change The Print) and we thought we might have to settle for second, but things worked out well.
"He was pretty tough, he hasn't raced without cover too often for us, so it was a pretty good effort."
Dikerry is no stranger to the Victorian way of racing.
The former New Zealander spent two and a half years with Andy and Kate Gath before being claimed by the Sandersons in mid-2019.
His Charlton win was the third in 19 starts for the Sandersons and his 14th overall from 72 starts.
Sanderson said a first-up win had relieved some of the pressure associated with the big move.
"It's been a hectic couple of weeks, particularly (last) week, but it's good to get here on cup day and take it all in," he said.
Best of the other Sanderson-trained runners was Tuakana, who finished fourth.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.