Day At The Track

Championship Change

09:30 AM 24 Jun 2017 NZST
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The McMillan Equine Feeds New Zealand Junior Driver Championship as we know it is changing. The event that highlights our top young drivers is set to take place over two race nights rather than the customary one night.

The annual event is run towards the end of each season and sees the top six qualifying junior drivers from both the North and South Island’s come together to compete in heats in a bid to take out the title as New Zealand’s Junior Driver Champion.

This season the Championship kicks off at Forbury Park on Thursday 13th July for the first two heats and then continues onto Addington Raceway on Friday 14th July for the final two heats.

The change has come after a call for the Championship to become more about horsemanship skills than it is about luck. The additional meeting means an extra shot for the drivers to gain points, it also gives the Championship more depth and creates new opportunities for the future top drivers of our industry.

“It’s a great idea, it gives everybody a chance to get to know each other better and meet a wider range of owners and trainers from different areas,” said leading junior driver Rory McIlwrick.

“I’m honoured to be able to take part in the series I can’t wait to meet new people and have a good time both on and off the track.”

Rory McIlwrick heads the South Island team after qualifying with the most points and is joined by Matt Anderson, Kimberly Butt, Sheree Tomlinson, Katie Cox and John Morrison. Dylan Ferguson qualified top of the North Island with Ben Butcher, Jack MacKinnon, Tony Cameron, Mark Johnson and Robert Argue gaining the rest of the highly sought after spots.

McIlwrick, who only starting working with horses when he was a teenager, is struggling to come to terms with the fact he is the leading junior driver in the country. While the New Zealand Junior Driver Championship title is a goal he would love to achieve, he is also focused on taking out the Leading Junior Driver Award at the annual Awards on August 3rd.

“It’s like dreaming you’re going to kick the winning goal or score the winning try but you’re on the bench. You dream of it happening but it’s usually just a dream. I hope the dream can come true and I can hold on and take out the premiership,” McIlwrick said.

In an industry that can often be difficult to break into without the backing of family, McIlwrick is proving that anything is possible if you are determined.

“You have to work hard and find good teachers who will tell you what you are doing wrong. Ask questions and don’t be afraid of mistakes, they just mean you are one step closer to making the right move,” McIlwrick added.

Full coverage of the four heats will be on shown on Trackside as well as coverage on the Harness Racing New Zealand website and social media pages.

Stacy Markham

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