BY HER own admission, 2022 has not been Shannon O'Sullivan's most prolific season in the sulky as she continues to juggle race driving with tertiary study and casual work.
But one thing for certain is that it has been high on key moments for the young Bendigo region driver.
In March, she brought up her 100th career win aboard the David Aiken-trained Mighty Flying Art.
And on Saturday night at Melton, O'Sullivan produced another milestone by notching up her first metro winner.
The moment the diligent 23-year-old has long waited for arrived when she steered the Lance Justice-trained Love Ina Chevy to victory in the NR 70 to 79 pace.
It was far from her first Melton win.
In fact - somewhat uniquely - her first career win was achieved at Victoria harness racing headquarters back in January 2018 aboard the Neville Pangrazio-trained Showgun Thomas.
There have been other Melton victories along the way, most notably Kissmelvis for Avenel trainer Ian Montgomery in June last year, but none of those were in a metro grade race, making this one special.
"I've been knocking on the door; there have been times I've thought I'm going to get up but I've just been pipped, so it was nice to be first to the post for once in a metro race," O'Sullivan said.
"I've had a few wins in the $10,000 races (at Melton), but they weren't classed as metro.
"I haven't really gotten a lot of chances or opportunities at a metro meeting to be able to drive in metro races and wins.
"I have driven for Lance before, so I just sent him a message and said if you need a five-point claim driver I was available and he threw me straight on.
"The last time I drove for him I won for him, so I've got two in a row for Lance at the moment.
"He's been really good to me and others; he does give a lot of the juniors an opportunity here and there."
O'Sullivan hopes her breakthrough win will naturally lead to more opportunities aboard Love Ina Chevy, who has now won 30 races and been placed 34 times in 196 starts for earnings of $384,943.
"He's a really nice horse to drive - really easy," she said.
The gifted youngster's maiden metro win was a definite reward for much hard work.
O'Sullivan, the daughter of trots legend and Gordon Rothacker medallist Jim O'Sullivan, is in the midst of completing her final year of an exercise science degree at La Trobe University and is back helping out Shelbourne trainer Kate Hargreaves for a few weeks, as well as doing her share with her own family's team of horses.
She has also this season taken on a role with broadcaster TrotsVision.
"This is my last year of uni, so one more semester to go and I'm finished," said O'Sullivan, who has notched up 12 wins this season.
"It will be exciting getting it finished and walking on stage and grabbing that degree. I'll be looking forward to that."
On the racetrack, O'Sullivan, who will have one drive at Geelong on Wednesday night for Miners Rest trainer Nick Edwards (La Bella Figura), says she is keen to make the most of each and every opportunity that flows her way during the remaining six months of 2022.
"The year has been a little bit slower than I would have hoped because I've been busy with uni, but I have achieved quite a few goals," she said.
"I've gotten my 100th winner and my first metro.
"I'm not really sure what's next, but I would love to get a chance to drive in a Group race or a Listed race at some stage and then obviously a Group win.
"I don't know whether I'll get that chance this season, but it's definitely a goal for me long term."
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