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Lawrence McCormick will never forget his 26th birthday - and neither will partner Chauntel Kentish.
Yesterday, the couple, who train eight horses at Tinwald on the southern fringes of Ashburton, gained their first training win when Su El finished best through the middle of the pack in a 2600m mobile pace for 6yr-old-and-older horses.
Su El has given the new partnership a challenging start, behaving herself at the trials in December then galloping at both starts in Westport. Her victory comes at McCormick and Kentish's 11th attempt at winning a race. McCormick works for trainer Gavin Smith during the week, and has driving responsibilities as well. He praised Kentish (22) for her efforts.
''She does most of the work with them - she does a really good job.''
Kentish's phone was ringing constantly following the win of Su El, and she was still shaking with excitement several minutes after the race.
The McCormick name is familiar to harness racing followers, with Lawrence's grandfather, Doug, one of the stalwarts of the game over the last 50 years, but Kentish comes from a galloping background.
The couple gained their public training licence at the start of the season, and got Su El off
trainer Mike Stevens, who offered them the horse when he heard they were giving training a go.
McCormick has won 33 times as a driver since gaining his junior driver's licence in 2007. He also had a stint in Western Australia in 2009, working and driving for three months for trainer Andrew De Campo.