Tayla Gillespie aiming for another career best season in 2023

Bourbonontherocks and Matt Elkins after a recent victory.

Prenzlau trainer Tayla Gillespie enjoyed a career best season in 2022 and she is aiming to raise the bar again this campaign, starting with the Jim McNeil Trotting Championship.

The 27-year-old Gillespie was recognised at the 2022 Queensland Harness Awards in Brisbane recently by claiming the Redcliffe Harness Racing Club horse of the year gong with the consistent Johnrod.

It will be another consistent standardbred that will carry the team’s hopes in the 2023 Jim McNeil Trotting Championship series – Bourbonontherocks – which begins on Friday evening at Albion Park.

The resuming mare – Bourbonontherocks – has drawn gate eight in the second of the two heats in Friday’s opening round.

The series consists of a second round of heats next week before a Final the week after.

Gillespie’s Bourbonontherocks has not been at the races since late January after the stable opted to give her a quick freshen up with a few weeks without racing.

While Gillespie thinks her 10-year-old trotter might be a little underdone for Friday’s assignment, she is hopeful of picking up some points and building through the series.

“I think she will benefit from the run but she is always consistent and thereabouts,” Gillespie said.

“She steps pretty quickly so I am not concerned about the draw, she should not be too far off them early.

“She might need the run so we will keep her quiet and hopefully have one run at them.

“She always tries so hopefully she can pick up some points in this first heat.

“Hopefully she can make the Final and be primed and ready to go.”

The well-named trotter received her moniker from an Alan Jackson country song.

Gillespie’s father Shaun gave her the name.

The Gillespie clan-bred Bourbonontherocks but they did not race her in the early stages of her career as she was leased out to the Karen Bennett stable.

The mare eventually made her way back to the Gillespies in the early stages of 2021 and she has gone on with it since.

The 2022 campaign was arguably the best of her career, winning four races as well as running in the minor money on half a dozen other occasions.

“She has been back with us the last few years and she has been so good to us, having won 15 races all up,” Gillespie said.

“She has been very, very good. She has been great.

“She has been super – winning three in a row not long ago.”

Gillespie credits her father Shaun’s efforts with the trotter for her form over the last couple of years.

Bourbonontherocks and Matt Elkins after a recent victory.

The brown mare ran in the money in three of her four most recent races before going for a quick break.

“Dad has always been very good with trotters and I think since we got her home, she has just thrived,” Gillespie said.

“We have got the best out of her.

“Dad has helped a lot as he is good with trotters.

“Trotters can be very frustrating at times but we have been very lucky with her, she has been very good and always trots and behaves.”

As a trainer, Gillespie has continued to build in recent campaigns.

She collected 22 victories in 2021 before she elevated that to 36 last year.

Pacer Johnrod was the stable star of those 36 victories in 2022, collecting 10 on his own, as well as 12 other minor placings.

The son of Sportswriter thrived racing at Redcliffe’s “Triangle” facility and was rewarded with horse of the year honours at the track north of Brisbane.

“He was very good last season – having 10 wins – and the rest of the team has been going well,” Gillespie said of Johnrod. 

“I think I had my best season last year and hopefully I can go better again this year.”

Gillespie also has Rock Nien entered for Friday’s Albion Park program.

She says the gelding is “flying” but has struggled to draw a decent gate of late.

The Jim McNeil Trotting Championship is always a popular series in Queensland.

A respected businessman and horse owner, the late McNeil was a pioneer of trotting races in the Sunshine State, helping lift the horse population around Brisbane as well as increasing the profile of the form of racing.

The Jim McNeil Trotting Championship has been run since 2011.

Trotters must contest both heats to be eligible for the Final.

Trotters that contest round one heats on Friday night will be automatically drawn into round two heats on Friday March 17 before a $27,186 Rating Penalty Final on Saturday March 25.

The Final will consist of the 14 starters that pick up cumulative points across the heats.

Pacer Johnrod.