Tomorrow’s a big night for Amber Lancaster, who’s making her long hoped-for harness racing debut at Fraser Downs Racetrack.
Lancaster, 22, has worked in the backstretch since she was a girl, first paying her dues as a groom mucking out stables and more recently as a trainer, embarking on the long process of qualifying as a driver.
It’s a sure bet her Fraser Downs family will be cheering her on as she makes her debut as a fully-fledged driver on her home track, becoming the first female driver at Cloverdale’s landmark track since 2005.
The Reporter caught up with Lancaster during a barn tour at the 2010 open house at the backstretch, a traditional gathering that coincides with the September qualifying races.
She described how much she loved working with Standardbred horses, and revealed that she earned her license as a trainer a few years ago, a step along the way to attaining her real goal – becoming a qualified driver.
“I’m a girl, right, so there’s a little bit more pressure,” she’d said, explaining how she got her first taste of driving success when she won the all-female powder puff race at the Harness the Hope fundraising event. “That was kind of an eye-opener that I might want to be a driver.”
Back then, attaining her goal in a male-dominated sport must have seemed a long way off.
“It’s really hard to go against these guys,” she said, reflecting on the path that lay ahead.
“It’s a tough business to be in, right. But I would like to do it. Maybe, eventually.”
Fraser Downs insiders will be pulling for her. Dan Jukich, who pens the ‘Inside Track’ column that runs in our sister paper, The Surrey Leader, this week called the young woman’s journey “courageous.”
“Personally, I get chills running up my spine just thinking of the heartwarming scene that is going to take place prior to tomorrow night’s opening race,” Jukich wrote.
Lancaster will be driving in three races Dec. 9, starting in race one with Black Sierra (post time is 7 p.m.), trained by Tim Brown. She’s up next in the seventh, in the sulky behind Red Star Stella, trained by the legendary Ray Gimmell, an 81-year-old who’s a very familiar presence at the track.
Her third and final race of the evening is with Hi Ho Serenade in the 11th, driving for trainer Murray Balbar. For the list of Friday’s racing entries, visit this link.
Below is a Cloverdale Reporter video created in 2010. Half way through there’s a short clip featuring Lancaster.