Connor Clarke will be hoping he can break through for his first Group 1 victory when he jumps in the sulky behind the Geoff Webster-trained Elusive in Sunday’s $150,000 NSW Breeders Challenge final for two-year-old fillies.
At just 20, Clarke has already made a name for himself in harness racing, hitting the winning post in front on 146 occasions.
The horse from Bannockburn heads into the race after streaking away in the second heat on October 3 where she managed to win by over eight meters. In the second semi-final, Elusive finished second behind the Rickie Alchin-trained star Lux Aeterna.
"She won her heat quiet easily and I was quite surprised how she went in the heats," Clarke said.
"In the semi she probably came up against the best horse in the series, Lux Aeterna."
Clarke has drawn gate nine for the final, four spots outside the aforementioned rival.
"I was hoping to draw closer to the inside. I have drawn outside and that's thrown a bit of a spanner in the works - just got to see how it pans out," he said.
The young reinsman is yet to claim a maiden Group 1, but went close when he finished second in the 2021 Ladyship Mile with Miss Mcgonagall, who was trained by his father Stephen.
And that experience in big races is sure to play an important role in going one step further.
"It's hard to explain really, you don't get these opportunities every day and to finally win it would be even better," he said.
Clarke has had a journey filled with ups and down in his short career.
"You have your good spots, you're driving lots of horses, you're doing well and you might get a suspension. You have a couple of weeks off that takes a few weeks to build back up," he said.
"You've got to pick yourself back up, go and learn from your mistake and admit to it, which is probably the biggest thing."
Clarke said his father is always happy to give him a few words of advice.
"He's always there to question about a drive or (ask) why I did that," he said.
"Some of the trainers are hobby trainer so they won't do it… Dad is always there watching races and letting you know what you've done."
Elusive, a winner of four races already in her short career, is rated a $9 chance with the TAB behind $1.28 favourite Lux Aeterna.
The NSW Breeders Challenge finals for two and three-year-old pacers of each sex are $150,000 Group 1 events at Menangle on Sunday, with the four-year-old showdowns to be run for $50,000 each