NZ Sports Hall of Fame induction special for Lance O’Sullivan
Of all the many accolades Lance O'Sullivan has received over the years, he rates his induction to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame as the most humbling.
Last Thursday (18th February) at the annual Halberg Sportsman of the Year Awards, Lance joined fellow jockeys Bill Broughton, Jimmy Ellis, Linda Jones and the brothers Bill and Bob Skelton on the elite list of high achieving New Zealand sports-people.
Awards for his exploits as a 12-time champion jockey with a total of 2,479 wins at home and overseas have been almost common-place for Matamata's most famous horseman. The first was Matamata-Piako Sportsman of the Year, followed by Waikato Sportsman of the Year and nomination to the national award.
In 2003 he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, while in 2006 he was an inaugural inductee to the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame.
But of them all, this latest award has a special ring to it.
"It was very humbling to join so many great sports-people in our National Hall of Fame," he told the Matamata Chronicle. "The jockeys before me were all greats in their own right and now to be counted amongst them means a lot to me personally.
"It's something else though and even if it sounds like a bit of a cliché, it's great for racing to be recognised.”
"I haven't done it by myself, it's been with the support of my family and many other people over the years. This is for them too."
Not one to rest on his laurels, it's back to business for Lance, who has followed in the tradition of his champion trainer father Dave and brother Paul at the helm of Wexford Stables.
This Saturday at Matamata's big raceday of the year he and co-trainer Andrew Scott plan to have two runners in the $100,000 J Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders' Stakes, a race he won a record five times as a jockey and already once as a trainer.
Feisty Jane and Gold Rush will carry the Wexford colours in the 48th edition of the prestigious race, and while neither has yet to win a race in their handful of starts, Lance believes they deserve their shot at the big prize.
"They're both talented fillies who haven't done much wrong to date and we're very pleased with their latest training," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see either of them get amongst it."