IT HAS been a milestone harness racing season for Ellen Tormey and there's still a bit more to play out for the young Bendigo trainer-driver.
Just a few months after notching up her 700th career driving win in July, Tormey quietly reached 100 victories for the season at Echuca last week with her win for Rochester trainer Mark Thompson on Missed The Truth.
In a season where the wins have come at a consistent pace, she was not on 100 for long, celebrating the feat by driving half of the card at last Friday's 10-race meeting at Mildura.
It is the first time the 31-year-old has hit the 100-win mark in her 15-year career in the sulky, after coming agonisingly close in the extended 2019-20 season with 91 wins.
As she always does, Tormey was quick to deflect plenty of credit for her success to others.
"I am lucky that a lot of people have stuck by me and had horses racing at the right time when I've been up and about," she said.
"To get close last year and then not get there was a little annoying I guess, but it was still a good season regardless.
"It was definitely a little bit of a goal at the start of the season, so to get there was really nice.
"Having started (driving) at 16, there's been a lot of people who have been loyal to me along the way."
Her haul of five at Mildura aboard the Julie Douglas-trained Marsden Heights, Bernie Winkle and Captain Confetti, Abstract Hanover (Kylie Bevington) and Redbank Rockabear (Frank Mercieca) was a career-equal best.
Tormey previously achieved five wins at Mildura on December 18 last year, with her wins that night also including one aboard Bernie Winkle.
The Julie Douglas trained eight-year-old is close to etching his name into the record books after drawing level with trotting champion True Roman for the most number of wins by a harness racing horse at the one Victorian venue.
Bernie Winkle has 35 Mildura wins, equal to True Roman's lifetime record at Moonee Valley.
While the record pursuit will be on hold for the short-term, with Bernie Winkle heading to Tabcorp Park Melton this Saturday night, Tormey is looking forward to getting back to Mildura for their tilt at a record-breaking victory.
"I didn't even go into last Friday thinking there was a chance to equal the record," she admitted.
"It is getting a fair bit harder up there as the others are driving to beat him now, they know how he races and a lot of the drivers drive to get him beat, or try and beat him.
"He's never what you would call ultra-impressive, he kind of lets them get to him and you think they are going to run him down, but he sticks his head out and does what he has to.
'I'm pretty easy on him, I don't really like hitting him that much.
"But they just know he pulls out down the back. The week before they went 27.5 down the back just so he couldn't make ground, but they really got themselves beat, so I guess it evens out.
"Surely with the right race and the right run he can break the record. That would be nice.
"He certainly deserves it, he's just been a lovely horse. No superstar, but just a lovely horse who has developed a bit of a following now."
All but one of Bernie Winkle's 17 wins this season from 36 starts have been achieved at Mildura.
It's been a season for the ages for the Bendigo ranks, with three drivers passing 100 wins for the season.
Jack Laugher leads the way with 167 wins - placing him equal third in the state behind Chris Alford (200) and Greg Sugars (182), while Alex Ashwood has 105 and is seventh in the standings, one spot below Tormey.
Next in line are Glenn Douglas (56) and Tayla French (55).
Tormey said she had set herself no new goals for the remainder of the season, other than to finish it off as strongly possible.
"I don't really want to put that sort of pressure on myself, I just want to keep enjoying what I'm doing," she said.
"When I was starting out, if someone had said to me you'd drive 100 winners in a season, I would have laughed.
"But I'm just grateful for the opportunities and very appreciative of all the people who have looked after me over such a long period of time."
When I was starting out, if someone had said to me you'd drive 100 winners in a season, I would have laughed.- Ellen Tormey
Tormey, who added a win earlier this week at Bendigo with the impressive Douglas-trained newcomer Midnight In Memphis, has the chance to grow her tally with seven drives on Thursday night at Swan Hill.
She will have one drive apiece at Maryborough and Ballarat on Friday, before four at Melton on Saturday, including Duke Of Dundee, Brallos Pass and the in-form Kate Hargreaves-trained pacer Lost Four Words.
"It was a massive step-up last time for Lost Four Words (in the Elmore Pacing Cup), but she went very well," Tormey said of the mare, who has won four of seven starts in her return from nearly 11 months off with a tendon injury.
"I don't think she will be far away.
"And Bernie seems to do pretty well in those claiming races. He's drawn pretty badly, but I'm sure he can step up and be competitive."
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