JD Stephen’s memorable stint in Queensland

JD Stephens’ stay in Queensland may well prove to be just a short one but when she looks back on the experience later in life, one milestone will stand out above the rest.

At just 21 years of age, the Kiwi-native picked up her first career winner as a harness racing trainer late last week at Albion Park with mare Scotts Rain, delivering Stephens a maiden triumph.

Stephens first came to the Sunshine State to help prepare Luke McCarthy’s Queensland team of eight pacers, alongside fellow trainer Ricky Thurlow, and has in recent weeks also worked with the McMullen stable.  

In the process, the keen driver and trainer purchased Scotts Rain to help develop her own ambitions in the industry.

The bay mare, the rookie trainer’s only pacer in work, now has two victories from seven career starts, with the latest over 2138 metres, driven by Hayden Barnes. 

“I am friends with Xavier O’Connor, who used to drive her in Victoria, and I told him I was looking for a horse to start driving on and training with,” Stephens, who has been based in Australia for almost four years, said.

“He said he had a good one there for me so I bought it.

“That was the main reason I bought the horse, I want to get into my driving more, to have something of my own to get confidence on and learn the ropes of it all.”

Originally from New Zealand, Stephens was not born into the racing industry but grew up not far from stables and was introduced to the pacers in that way.

Stephens spent a year working with Matt Craven in Victoria, which led to two years in Sydney with the McCarthy stable and has been in Queensland since July of this year.

Her stay is set to be short-lived however, likely to head back to NSW in the coming weeks to return to the main McCarthy operation.

In her quick Queensland experience, Stephens accomplished her first race drive, which she is keen to add to, and her maiden victory as a trainer.

“It was a relief,” she said of Scotts Rain winning last Friday.

“I thought I might give it a try; get my own horse and I am really happy with its going.

“I am enjoying it up here in Queensland, I love it.

“She is racing again on Friday so hopefully she can go good again.”

Scotts Rain has had four starts in Queensland for Stephens and goes chasing her second triumph this Friday in the last of nine events from Albion Park, to be driven by Stephens’ close friend Taleah McMullen. 

By Jordan Gerrans