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Natasha Day is in the driver’s seat: Part 1

By Chris Lomon
 
Natasha Day took one look at the flat tire on her race bike, sighed, and figured it wasn’t going to be her night. But, as the harness driver showed then, and time and again, it’s never wise to bet against her.   
 
She wasn’t going to throw in the towel on a rainy night two years ago at Hanover Raceway, a night that began in a deflating manner, literally and figuratively.
 
At the end of the card, the native of Australia had made a pair of trips to the winner’s circle, including a victory with Cold Shadow, a pacing son of Cams Eclipse.
 
It was, in many ways, a perfect example of how Day deals with adversity on and off the racetrack.
 
Time for a change
 
When the local racing scene in the Gold Coast, a city in the Australian state of Queensland about an hour from Brisbane, began to show signs of struggle, Day started looking for other opportunities to continue her involvement in the sport.

It eventually led her to New Jersey, specifically, Freehold Raceway.
 
“Racing, in my opinion, was starting to come to an end where I lived,” said Day. “The track that I raced at the most shut down for the Commonwealth Games. When that happened, I decided to move on to other opportunities. I ended up going to the U.S. for three or four years. I was second trainer for Ross Croghan. I did a little bit of driving, but I was more focused on the training as far as the horses were concerned. I picked up a few drives here and there at Freehold, Pocono, The Meadowlands, Yonkers and the Grand Circuit at Lexington.“
 
Those little opportunities, nine drives in 2012, 28 the following year and 38 in 2015, would eventually pay big dividends.  


 
“I competed in one of those Mildred Williams International races for women and that helped get my name out there a little bit” recalled Day. “It was just hard getting visas to the U.S. and going back and forth to Australia. It’s a lot of money. I went home for a year and ended up coming to Canada in 2015, and got a job with (high-profile trainer) Richard Moreau. I thought I’d try it out up here because it’s a Commonwealth country like Australia. It was a lot easier in terms of the visas.”
 
It also proved to be a wise career move.
 
In 2016, Day had 258 starts in the sulky, winning 21 races along with $120,356 in purse earnings.
 
“I slowly started working on the driving side of things,” she said. “I bought my own horse, Beachside Bungalow, when I got here. He helped me put my name on the map a little bit, too. He was a $10,000 claimer. He could get me out there with him and drive, and people would notice me. That was at Grand River (Raceway) and around that area. Slowly, it just progressed from there.
 
“(Trainer) Becky Geisel, she noticed me the most,” continued Day. “I was qualifying one day at Flamboro and she needed a driver. I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ I was there with Beachside Bungalow qualifying and she gave me the chance. From then on, she put me on everything. She really was the one who helped kick off my driving in Canada. She still keeps me on.”

Main photo courtesy of Hanover Raceway

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Check back on Tuesday, January 23 for Part 2 of the feature

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