FOR young drivers like Jayden Brewin, chances to compete in Group 1 races don't come along often.
Even for those like him with 255 wins already under their belt, the opportunities are rare.
That is why the 21-year-old from Bendigo is cherishing and making the most of every moment of his association with the genuine Group race performer Sundons Courage, a winner of 22 races and $331,915 in stakes.
Brewin, formerly from South Australia, will be having his 10th steer behind the son of trotting royalty Sundon and the mare Truscott Photo, in Saturday's $50,000 Bill Collins Trotters Sprint at Bendigo.
It will be their second together at the top level after finishing seventh in the Australasian Trotting Championship at Lord's Raceway last month.
A Group 1 winner as a two-year-old in the 2015 Vicbred Super Series, Sundons Courage has gradually worked his way back towards his best this campaign, getting home well for a third last weekend in a Group 3 free for all, albeit eight metres behind the winner and the odds-on favourite in this Saturday night's race Majestuoso.
While it's been a work in progress, Brewin believes the combination of horse and driver has started to click.
"He's a bit of a tricky horse to get used to," he said.
"He got checked the first time I drove him and then he galloped out his second one before Brad (Angove) took him to the trials and drove him himself and went really well a day or two later.
"He gave me another go the following Sunday, which I was really happy about.
"Although he has been tricky, I feel I have him pretty well down pat now and he's starting to get some nice results next to his name.
"Hopefully, he can pluck a nice race or two this time around."
Sundons Courage is one of two Bendigo region-trained hopes in the race. The other is the Leigh Graham-trained Nephew Of Sonoko.
They will have their work cut out for them, up against not only Australia's best trotter Majestuoso, but recent Queensland Group 1 winner Pink Galahs, the supremely-talented Im Ready Jet and the short-course specialist McLovin, a Group 1 Maori Mile and Group 3 Bendigo Trotters Cup winner in his only two starts at this track.
Despite being the outsider of the field at 125-1, Brewin is expecting the eight-year-old to give a far better account of himself than those odds suggest.
"If we had got a better draw I'd be very confident, but his run the other night was good enough to say he will be awfully competitive," he said.
"If we get the right run, get one-one or something like that, I feel he can certainly run a place and from there, with a bit of luck, could be fighting out the finish.
"He's back to where he probably was when he was racing in all those bigger races last year, where he was never far away from them.
"He's always been around the mark, running places.
"I'm sure with the better draw coming up in the next few runs, he'll be plucking a win very soon."
Brewin would not be surprised to see them run a track record, with the Andy Gath-trained Majestuoso the obvious standout and the horse to beat.
"There's probably three or four that will want to humm the gate early and be running from the get-go," he said.
"Hopefully, if they've gone really hard early, I've got the right sit on them and can come over the top.
"Stranger things have happened in big races."
Brewin, a welcome addition to the Bendigo harness racing landscape over the past two years together with his father Justin and the family, is thrilled to see the local club hosting such a prestigious night of racing and would like nothing better than to mark it with a bold showing on Sundons Courage.
"I really have to thank the Angoves for the opportunity, they've been very good to me and I've been blessed to end up on this horse," he said.
"Hopefully, I can repay them with a nice performance."
Although he has been tricky, I feel I have him pretty well down pat now and he's starting to get some nice results next to his name.Jayden Brewin
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: