Scotland’s Ryan Inglis got his first driving win in North America last week at The Meadowlands, the first of what he hopes will be many on this side of the pond in the months ahead. The 23-year-old will begin trying to add to his victory total this week when he returns to the Big M for races on Thursday and Saturday.
Inglis, who visited the U.S. for several weeks earlier this year and drove once at The Meadowlands in an amateur race, finishing fourth, is back now for an extended stay in the States. He will be helping in the barn of trainer Linda Toscano and looking to take advantage of any driving opportunities that come his way.
A third-generation horseman, Inglis has been a multiple recipient of the Young Driver of the Year Award from the Scottish Harness Racing Club and has also been honoured for his driving prowess by the British Harness Racing Club earlier this year.
“At the end of the day, I want to drive, but this is a hard place to start and try to break into the driving circuit,” said Inglis. “I just need as much help as possible, to be honest. I showed last week that I’m capable enough. I’ve won stacks of races back home; I’m more than confident in my ability to drive horses. You just need someone to take a chance and hopefully I can show it.”
Inglis decided now was the time to give driving in the U.S. a shot. A season in the U.K. runs from May through mid-October, with racing taking place Saturdays and Sundays.
“The racing back home is like a hobby,” said Inglis. “I can’t make a living driving there or be involved in the sport like I want on a fulltime basis. I decided to give up a year back home and give it a go. I’m young enough and Linda was really keen for me to come back, which was another factor.”
Last week, Inglis won with P L Portia in a Meadowlands Amateur Driving Club race, using a gate-to-wire performance to score in 1:54.4. The four-year-old female pacer, trained by Justin Sodano, had not led at the first quarter in any of her previous 28 races this season.
“The race worked out completely different from what me and Justin thought and what we spoke about,” said Inglis. “We thought we would be somewhere near the back because she hasn’t really shown a lot of gate speed in the past. But when I was lining up behind the car, she felt unbelievable. So, it was like a split-second decision to leave with her. It paid off.
“She raced great and up the straight she dug in for me. She’s one of the smallest horses I’ve ever driven, but she’s got the heart of a lion. She’s so tough.”
And what was Inglis thinking as he made his way toward the finish line with P L Portia?
“When you’re in the moment, you don’t really think of [winning] too much, you’re just driving to finishing,” said Inglis, adding with a laugh, “But I do remember thinking, 'Please don’t get caught.'”
On his way to the winner’s circle, though, Inglis had time to savour the experience.
“It was a surreal moment,” said Inglis. “I come from a very small village in Scotland and just to be driving at the biggest and best track in the world, is one thing. To actually win a race there, to get it done, it’s a moment that leaves you at a loss for words. It was some feeling. It was unbelievable.”
Inglis and P L Portia will return to The Meadowlands on Thursday for a TrackMaster Series preliminary and Inglis will drive another Sodano trainee, Make It Big, in a claiming handicap on Saturday at the Big M.
P L Portia will start from post two in a field of eight on Thursday and is 8-1 on the morning line.
“If she’s on her game again, I think she should have a real chance,” said Inglis.
Racing begins at 6:20 p.m. (EST) at The Meadowlands.