By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
Crystal Hackett reached lofty highs in the showjumping ring and now she is kicking goals on the racetrack.
The junior reinswoman recorded her first race win in the sulky at Alexandra Park last week, and it didn’t take her long to return to the winner’s circle, reining home Marathon Man to victory in the John Deere/Agrowquip Mobile Pace (2700m) at Cambridge Raceway on Friday night.
While any win for a novice driver is great, Hackett’s first two victories were particularly meaningful for her.
He maiden win came behind High In the Sky, who is trained by her parents Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett, while Friday’s win was recorded in the famous silks of her new employers, Clevedon trainers Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan.
“It was good to get my first win for Barry and Scotty,” she said.
“It was very special getting my first win for Mum and Dad last week as well, getting that first win gave me a bit more confidence.”
Having worked Marathon Man in the lead-up to Friday, Hackett was confident in his chances in the junior driver event.
“He had been working well during the week and he had a good formline, he just needed the right drive and run, and I knew he would be close to the money.”
While the daughter of well-respected trainers, Hackett wasn’t drawn to harness racing as a child, instead showing a liking for another equine pursuit – showjumping.
“I started off with the Kidz Kartz but I didn’t enjoy that, so my sister and I turned to showjumping,” she said.
“I have competed in pony grand prix, and I have won titles at horse of the year. I was quite successful in the showjumping ring, but harness racing is what I want to do now.
“I showjumped right up until this year, but I have given that up and decided to give harness racing a crack, and I am loving it so far.”
While still showjumping, Hackett dipped her toes into harness racing when competing as a monte rider.
“I took part in the monte races, they were good,” she said. “I enjoyed riding in them and it was good to learn what racing was about through that without the pressure of driving. It would have been a good aspect of racing to kick-off, but it never happened.”
While Hackett wasn’t initially taken by driving, she has now caught the bug and can’t get enough of it, and her talents are starting to show on race night.
“I wasn’t a fan of driving early on, it scared me a little bit,” she said. “Mum and Dad told me I could work for them before school and I started driving more and had my first workout drive, and things kicked off from there. I love it now.”
The talented 17-year-old initially started working for her parents after leaving school last year but is now enjoying her time working for her new employers.
“I spent a couple of weeks working for Scotty and Barry during one of my school holidays and Barry offered me a job then. I said I needed to finish school but I would take it when I left school, and it has gone from there.”
Hackett is enjoying being out on the track and said she is hoping to rein home a few more winners before season’s end.