By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk
And then there were three.
When Gerard O’Reilly took out the Waimate Cup with Tom Martin at Oamaru on Sunday he became the third O’Reilly sibling to do so, joining brothers Patrick and Leo.
“I wasn’t aware of that,” says Gerard O’Reilly, “but to win any Cup you must be doing well.”
His pre-race plan in the Whitestone Livestock Waimate Cup (3000m) was to ensure a decent tempo and make it hard for the backmarkers, and that’s exactly how it worked out.
Tom Martin began like a bullet and went straight to the lead before handing up mid-race to favourite Get Up N Dance, who started off 35 metres.
Capitalising on a gun run Tom Martin got to the passing lane, winning by half a length from Still Rockin and Homebush Lad.
“He can be a funny bugger,” Gerard said of Tom Martin, “he can knock off a bit when you get to the front but he had enough of a break.”
Former Otago Daily Times racing editor and long-time harness racing journalist Tayler Strong was the first to point out the O’Reilly Cup treble.
He noted that Patrick trained and drove Mystic Bromac to win the race in 1988, while Leo has won it twice. He trained and drove Golden Cee to win in 2001, and also won with Kip Ross in 2007 for trainer Jim Hooper.
There are 10 siblings in the O’Reilly clan, with a fourth brother Kerry also a very successful driver (384 wins from 1974-2020).
And the family connection didn’t end there.
Graham Court, the trainer of Tom Martin, drove Chaka, trained by his father Royce Court, to win the Waimate Cup in 1976.
While this was Gerard O’Reilly’s first Waimate Cup win he is no stranger to winning Cups races in the South Island.
According to HRNZ records, he has won 19 Cups, beginning with the first of his three Geraldine Cups, in 1994. He’s also won the Cheviot Cup three times, most notably with Tiger Tara in 2015.
Laver has been another good performer for O’Reilly winning the Ashburton and Northern Southland Cups in 2021 and 2022.
Other Cup wins have included Greymouth (2000), Kurow (2007), Methven (2009), and Nelson (2011 and 2018).
The Waimate Cup win continues a very successful run for the O’Reilly family.
Daughter Sarah, the third generation of one of Mid Canterbury’s most successful harness racing families, is currently third in the 2023 Drivers’ premiership with 28 wins, behind Blair Orange and John Dunn.
“She is going great and it’s such a thrill,” says Gerard.
Sarah is gunning for a third consecutive Junior Drivers’ premiership this year and is winning races all over the country at present.
Over the last 40 years, Gerard O’Reilly’s had 663 wins while Sarah’s had 222 wins since starting out in 2018.
As for any rivalry with his daughter, Gerard says that’s “a losing battle” and he couldn’t be prouder of her success.
“It’s probably rejuvenated me if anything.”