By Duane Ranger
What a way to bring up your first Saturday night winner!
Toorbul-based 17-year-old Zac Chappenden not only bolted clear to win race six by 12.2 metres at Albion Park at the weekend, but in doing so achieved his greatest moment in the sport.
Chappenden became the 2020 BOTRA Queensland Young Drivers Champion with that bold steer behind the Jack Butler-trained Sam Is Perfection.
The title-sealing victory came in the sixth and final heat, and in the earlier heat of the night finished a head-second behind the Grant Dixon trained Major Generaljujon.
“I’ve only had 25 career winners since I started driving last year, and two of them came in this Championship,” Chappenden said.
“It was an unbelievable feeling, I’m still excited - that is my career highlight without a doubt.
“I had 41 points and was in equal-first place with Brendan Barnes heading into the final night, and I knew I had a couple of winning chances - especially Sam Is Perfection.
“I thought if I could run in the first three with him, the title was mine.
“I spoke to the trainer (Butler) before the races and he told me he was a nice horse, who could go close.
“Then down the back straight the last time, I pushed the accelerator button.”
At the 500 metre mark, Chappenden gave Sam Is Perfection his head and they soon gapped the field.
At the top of the home straight, they had 20 metres to spare over their nine rivals, before the Pay Me Christian gelding cruised to victory stopping the clock in 2:34.6 (1:56.4 mile rate) for the 2,138m mobile.
The six-year-old started a $2.50 favourite, and in the process notched up his 10th career win.
“He’s a nice horse, who showed a real good turn of foot - I won’t forget him, or this night in a hurry,” Chappenden said.
“It is an honour to be a Queensland champion at such a young age.
“This is all I have ever wanted to do, I’d like to kick on and get 40 career winners before the season ends.”
The Caboolture-educated teenager, not only won the Queensland title, but he dealt to his opponents by a whopping 20 points.
Angus Garrard finished second on a countback from Brendan Barnes; they amassed 48 points – two more than fourth-placed Lachie Manzelmann.
Chappenden’s six drives saw him finish the Championship with two firsts, two seconds, a fourth and a sixth place.
“I owe a lot to my parents (Phil Chappenden & Melissa Kendall), If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have won this – or be driving at all,” Chappenden said.
“They have always been in to horses and put me through mini trotting.
“I had a pony run in the Interdominion, which was a thrill but that doesn’t match my Queensland title.
“I’d also like to thank Graham White who has supported me, and also Jack Butler and all the other owners and trainers who have put me on their horses.
“This is all I’ve ever wanted to do.”