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Winning salute number one by Nate Delany for Lincoln Farms. PHOTO: Megan Liefting/Race Images.

Yoohoo, it’s pies for morning smoko as Nate nabs Zac in first winner for Lincoln Farms

It was like the apprentice beating the master when Nate Delany and Lincoln River photo-finished Zachary Butcher and Frankie Major in an all Lincoln Farms finish at Auckland on Friday night.

But rather than celebrating his first driving win for his Lincoln Farms boss Ray Green, Delany’s first words to Butcher were in anticipation of a good morning smoko and the tasty pies part-owner David Turner would surely shout.

For Delany, 23, the half-head win marked a high point of the four months since he returned to working at Lincoln Farms’ Pukekohe base where he started out eight years ago.

And it cemented just how far he’s come from the 15-year-old who hated school so much he stopped going, helping out at a racing stable where his mum Judith worked instead of sitting at home.

With no family background in racing, Delany was lucky to get a job at one of the country’s most successful operations after hanging round Green at the races. But it wasn’t just at the end of a broom or pitch fork - “Ray threw me straight into driving but I got the hang of it real quick.

Nate Delany behind Lincoln River, inner, gets the better of Zachary Butcher and Frankie Major. PHOTO: Megan Liefting/Race Images.Nate Delany behind Lincoln River, inner, gets the better of Zachary Butcher and Frankie Major. PHOTO: Megan Liefting/Race Images.“He used to say it was like the blind leading the blind and I got a bit of grief when I was learning how to use a stopwatch.”

Delany, like all greenhorns in the game, found it hard getting on horses with much ability in those early days, recalling he only got to drive his first winner Willedu because the horse’s formline was so woeful no-one else wanted to handle him at the trials.

Trainer Eddie Clarke repaid Delany with the racenight drive and in December, 2017 he reigned the horse home at Cambridge, paying $71.10.

Delany’s tally now stands at 38 and with Friday night’s winner his 11th of the year he has topped the 2020 season when six of the 10 winners he drove were for his then bosses Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan.

Delany says he drove some nice horses in the two and a half years he spent there and learning from Purdon and Phelan was also a huge help in acquiring the skills for training which he started dabbling in last year.

And while Lincoln River’s win ranked right up with his best achievements, his undoubted highlight so far was his first training win in August at Cambridge with Illustrious Arden, whom he leased from Lincoln Farms.

“Ray said he’d always liked her. I think she just needed a bit more time and a different training regime.”

Delany, who turned a nice profit when he then sold Illustrious Arden, enjoys training a few of his own which also serves to give him more opportunities in the cart.

Nate Delany is enjoying being back at Lincoln Farms.Nate Delany is enjoying being back at Lincoln Farms.Delany, well down the drivers’ pecking order at Lincoln Farms behind Butcher, Andre Poutama and Monika Ranger, says he knows enough of how harness racing works to not be frustrated at limited opportunities.

“Everyone here gets their opportunity to drive. You just have to progress your way up and try to drive for more stables and prove you’re worthy.

“It’s good being round the people here, and learning from them. It’s a very helpful team with a lot of good banter.

“The key is to look forward. I don’t really set goals, I take it as it comes, but I guess the next would be to drive 50 winners.”

Lincoln River is one horse he’d like to keep driving.

“He’s always been unlucky and has never had the chance to show his true potential. I think he’ll get even better as four-year-old next season.”

Green said he was happy to see Delany succeed on Friday night and hoped it might reduce the amount of funny looks he’s had from a few people for using the junior when he had senior drivers at hand.

“I was pleased to see him get the job done, and do it so well. He’s a humble young man who is well aware of where he sits in the pecking order, Moni is the same, but he deserves a shot. Opportunity doesn’t knock so often for people like Nate who isn’t connected like a Purdon or Butt.”

Our runners this week: How our trainer rates them

Ray Green

Ray’s comments

Thursday night at Cambridge

Race 2: Commander Lincoln
6.06pm

“I thought he went quite well last time and he’s a chance of getting some of it. Andrew knows the horse well and, while he’s no champion, he tries hard.”

Race 6: Obadiah Dragon
7.46pm

“I can’t fault how he’s racing and he’s been unlucky several times at Cambridge. Yes, the others are higher graded than him but none of them are stars and most of the time at Cambridge the ones who get the good trips win. From the good draw, absolutely he can win. I wouldn’t like to be laying him.”

Race Images - Harness