17YO Olsen drives first winner in last-minute drive
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Seventeen-year-old Cole Olsen won his first race ever as a driver Thursday at the Virginia Harness Horse Association's Matinee Meet aboard a horse that had not reached the winner's circle in almost four years and a horse he had not planned to drive until just minutes before the race.
The Maryland-based Olsen came to Virginia Wednesday with seven qualifying starts at Ocean Downs under his belt. He hoped to get at least five trips in the sulky over the three-day meet in order to reach 12, which would be enough receive a provisional license when he turns 18 in October.
Heading into the day's last race, Olsen accumulated five starts over the two days and assuming his afternoon was over, took his colors off. Reinsman Bill Carter got a little banged up in the race prior and when he was not able to drive his horse LL Jackpot in the finale, he called on Olsen for last minute duty.
"He (Carter) knew I warmed the horse up and when he asked me if I wanted to drive her, I ran to get my colors," said Olsen. "I thought I had a shot with the horse. It looked to be a pretty even race with the other horses in to go."
LL Jackpot sat third at the quarter in the four-horse field then came outside before the half to challenge. She remained outside of front stepping Coffee's Ready through the top of the stretch but gained enough ground in the final steps to win by a nose. Rosie's Apples rallied late outside of LL Jackpot to provide an exciting three horse finish.
"I'm sure some people think I pulled too early," explained Olsen, "But the pace slowed down in the second quarter and I wanted to put pressure on the leader. If I stayed in third, I wouldn't have been able to apply any pressure from three or four lengths behind."
LL Jackpot last won a race Sept. 26, 2016 at Freehold. The 7-year-old mare crossed the wire Thursday in 2:00 and pushed her bankroll to $49,521.
Olsen and his family are relatively new to racing but it's something he wants to evolve in.
"My family just got into it last year," he said. "We grow hay and deliver it to stables and through those contacts, got into the sport and now have four horses. I enjoy training but really want to be able to drive my own horses."
Of his six drives Wednesday and Thursday, four were on horses owned and trained by Teresa Willabus.
"I warm horses up for her at Ocean Downs and she said if I ever went to a Fair meet to compete, she'd be happy to help me out and supply some horses for me to drive," he said.
Olsen will be busy Friday during the meet's final day --- he has five drives scheduled in the eight-race program. "I'm doing what I came here to accomplish, but I'm also having a great time," he said. (Shenandoah Downs)