IT'S no understatement to suggest Charlton's Ryan Sanderson has come a long way in a short time in harness racing.
The 18-year-old concession driver's emphatic win behind Imperials Reason for Kyabram trainer Paul Fidge at last Sunday's Charlton Cup meeting was a chance for reflection on a frenetic last 12-months.
Cup day capped the one-year anniversary of the Sanderson family's arrival in Charlton.
Father/trainer Shane, his wife Naomi and children Ryan and Abby, a young and quickly emerging driver in her own right, moved from Menangle in New South Wales .
They have made quite the impact, in particular Ryan, who notched up 64 wins in his first Victorian-based season in 2021.
His success with Imperials Reason was his 15th this season.
Number 16 at Mildura aboard the Vince Vallelonga-trained Art Of Sheng Li on Tuesday night catapulted him to 100-career wins.
He has managed to crack the ton in little over two full seasons of driving.
Thrilled to have landed in the winner's circle on Charlton Cup day for the second straight year after steering Dikerry to victory last year for his father, Sanderson admits he did not envisage the success he has enjoyed since the family first lobbed in the Buloke Shire town a year ago.
"I wouldn't have thought it (the last year) would have panned out like this, or that I would have had as many wins," he said.
"Thankfully, I have been getting really good opportunities - hopefully they can keep coming.
"In terms of opportunities, Victoria is really good for juniors, so I have to thank the trainers.
"And I have to thank dad for moving us here. He bit the bullet to move all the horses.
"I couldn't be more thankful."
An obvious spur for Sanderson in his still fledgling career is the fierce, but friendly rivalry enjoyed by the state's ever-growing ranks of supremely-talented concession drivers.
"It's very competitive. You've got Tayla French in top form and Jimmy Herbertson still getting around in the concession driver's championship. It will be pretty hard to knock him down," he said.
"There are a lot of good five-point claim drivers and plenty of threes.
"But that's what keeps the sport growing and keeps us on our toes."
I have to thank dad for moving us here. He bit the bullet to move all the horses. I couldn't be more thankful.- Ryan Sanderson
Given the obvious Charlton connection, Sanderson's win aboard Imperials Reason was easily one of the most popular on cup day.
The gifted teenager was glad to give a big and bubbly cup day crowd something to cheer about, following on from the win of local Charlton trainer John Tormey and his daughter Ellen in the opening race with the stable newcomer Bentleigh.
"I can't complain. It's always great getting a win, but especially at home," he said.
"I didn't get a drive in the cup this year, but hopefully that comes next year.
"It's always great getting a win on cup days; I couldn't ask for anymore."
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Sanderson was stoked to have found himself on such a progressive mare as Imperials Reason, who backed up her impressive 15.7m win in the previous Sunday's heat at Birchip, with an effortless and assertive 34.7m triumph in the final at Charlton.
The former New South Wales pacer had won only once in 19 starts before scoring her second win at Birchip.
"It took me a bit by surprise, the heat was good, but in the final she ran even better," Sanderson said.
"Hopefully I can keep the drive on her and see how she goes in the future.
"I hope she can go on with it. At the moment she's running the time and doing it pretty easy.
"Things are looking good to see how far she can go."
Thankfully, I have been getting really good opportunities - hopefully they can keep coming.- Ryan Sanderson
As much as a surprise for Sanderson was how ended up with the drive on the four-year-old daughter of For A Reason in the first place.
"The horse was nominated at Birchip without a driver and Paul just called me up; it was as simple as that," he said.
"He's at the stable complex at Kyabram, which is where Graham Lyon and Mark Watson are and I have driven for them here and there, so maybe there's a bit of a connection there.
"One of them might have put the good word in. I'd never really met Paul."
Sanderson will be aiming for more cup day glory this Sunday at Ouyen, where he will have at least five drives, including either Equity Stride or Vanquish Stride for his father in the $14,500 pacing Cup.
It's a day that holds great memories for the Sandersons.
Last year Ryan drove two winners for the family's stable, including the winner of the cup Blaster Ranger.
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