Day At The Track

Drivers face the nervous nineties

04:00 PM 24 Aug 2019 NZST
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Michael Bellman,Harness racing
Michael Bellman makes a habit of getting 100-plus wins a season - and is currently just four short of the milestone for 2018-19

With just a week to go in the current 2018-19 harness racing season, the pressure is on for some of our country's leading reinsmen to put the final polish on their outstanding achievements and topple the century mark.

In Victoria, young Ballarat gun James Herbertson is within a whisker, while experienced freelancer, Michael Bellman, based at Ararat, has high hopes he can snare a further four victories and make it to the milestone.

Highly-regarded former Riverina and now Sydney driver Cameron Hart has been enjoying his best ever season in the cart and is five off the magical mark, while Chris Geary has been in excellent touch, but has to make up six winners to get over the line.

"I honestly think I might be struggling to make up the lee-way, but we'll see how we go," 20-year-old Hart said.

"I'd love to get to 100 for the first time. That would be pretty special."

Regardless, Hart, who is only in his third year of driving, would have to be happy with his season, comfortably topping his 80 winners the previous year.

"I shifted down from my hometown in Junee about two-and-a-half years ago when I was offered a job by Shane Sanderson and it's turned out to be one of the best things I've done in my life," he said.

Cameron Hart

"Shane is continuing to build up a strong stable, and I've learnt a lot from watching the best drivers like the McCarthys and the Fitzpatricks.

"I didn't know what to expect when I moved, but it has worked out very well. The amount of support I've received from other trainers and owners has been unreal. I've had lots of opportunities and I'm so thankful for that."

Hart said he had probably five or six meetings left for his season. His parents Mark and Michelle are making a flying visit to Sydney this weekend to call on Cameron and his sister Ashley, who is also starting to make a name for herself in the industry. Ashley works for former champion North American horseman, Noel Daly, now domiciled at Menangle, and has driven seven winners this season.

"I don't know if mum and dad are coming to offer some encouragement to get me to the 100, but what I do know is that dad will be looking for a game of golf. I don't know how I feel about that because I'm going to be a bit rusty - it's been so busy lately I haven't played for quite awhile," Hart said.

James Herbertson, who has burst onto the Victorian scene, making a huge impact in a short time, has to land just two winners to get to the ton.

He had engagements at Melton last night, and is again booked at the same venue tonight by trainers Geoff Webster and Stephen Clarke. At Horsham on Monday afternoon, Herbertson has five drives and then the following night at Geelong he's on three runners.

Michael Bellman has been slowly but surely heading to the 100 target over the past four weeks. He's currently sitting on 96 wins.

Never afraid to travel, Bellman will be in action at Melton, driving two at "bolter's odds".

Then he has five plus an emergency runner at Cranbourne. On paper he appears to have each way chances with Village Skipper (Ken Ward) and Crompton Bay (Ricky Ryan).

Then it will be back up north to Horsham on Monday for five drives, including a handy one in Gottahaveahobbie (Wayne Ferguson). The following two nights he has one each at Geelong and Shepparton.

Sydneysider Chris Geary is on 94 and has been bobbing up recently on Victorian tracks. He's been driving for astute NSW conditioner Roy Roots Jnr and Shepparton's Isabel Walsh.

WA's Aldo Cortopassi needs to have a few good nights at the office, currently sitting on 90 but still a fantastic effort for the season.

Those who have already cracked the ton for the season include Queenslanders Grant Dixon 230, Peter McMullen 184, Nathan Dawson 140, Narissa McMullen 128, Adam Richardson 115, Kylie Rasmussen 110, Matt Elkins 107 and Brendan Barnes 106.

In Victoria, the master Chris Alford is way out front on 413, Greg Sugars 256, Kate Gath 154, Gavin Lang 129, Kima Frenning and Darby McGuigan both on 114, Jason Lee 106, Zac Phillips 103 and Kerryn Manning 101.

Champion NSW driver Todd McCarthy is the leader with 180, Amanda Turnbull 168, Robert Morris 114 and Luke McCarthy on 106. SA brother-and-sister Wayne and Dani Hill have 137 and 126 respectively, with Ken Rogers on 105.

In the west, Gary Hall Jnr has 189, Ryan Warwick 172, Chris Lewis 161, Dylan Egerton-Green 137, Chris Voak 115, with Aiden De Campo and Shannon Suvaljko both with 114.

The Tasmanian leading driver table has Mark Yole in the lead with 87, Gareth Rattray on 64 and Rohan Hillier 52.


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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