The rise and rise of Congupna's Rebecca Bartley

03:10 AM 02 Jun 2014 NZST
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Rebecca Bartley will respresent
Rebecca Bartley

The success story of this year's Young Drivers Challenge was undoubtedly the rise and rise of Rebecca Bartley.

Over the space of three days the Congupna reinswoman, 22, became a household name in Victorian harness racing, winning the first four races in the five-race invitational series.
And they weren't aboard odds-on favourites, in fact far from it.

Bartley piloted two longshots to victory at Shepparton on Thursday night (Riviera Kiss $26.60 and Boom Boom Hall $18.80) before striking at enormous odds at Melton's Tabcorp Park on Friday night (Smiling Spirit winning at $54.30).

To cap it off Bartley won the fourth race of the series at Ballarat on Saturday night (aboard Kankkunen at $10.70) before having to settle for fifth with Belvoirama in the last race to finish with a series points score of 46 - just four points shy of an unprecedented 50 points (the maximum a driver can accrue in the 10-points-per-win series).

"She was the story of the series, that's for sure," said Ballarat and District Trotting Club CEO Paul Rowse.

"By the time the series finished everyone knew who Rebecca Bartley was."

Rowse described the Young Drivers Challenge as a great series and praised the Shepparton Harness Racing Club for developing the concept.

"I'd encourage other clubs to follow Shepparton's lead and look at holding similar series in the future," Rowse said.

"It certainly added interest to our meeting as we were the lucky beneficiary of the series' final."
Rowse said any notion that harness racing was a sport dominated by males had long been debunked, with Victoria's driving ranks filled with top-line women's talent.

"It wouldn't surprise me at all now if Rebecca can go on to achieve similar to what Kerryn (Manning), Jodi (Quinlan), Amy (Tubbs) etcetera have been able to do," he said.

"It's a good news story for everyone that the girls are going so well in Victoria."
Bartley thanked series organisers and her fellow young drivers in her victory speech at Ballarat.

New South Wales based driver Todd McCarthy finished second in the series, 14 points behind Bartley, while Narissa McMullen (Queensland), Josh Duggan and Jason Lee all tied for third on 31 points.

YOUNG DRIVERS CHALLENGE FINAL STANDINGS

1: Rebecca Bartley 46
2: Todd McCarthy 32
3: Narissa McMullen 31
3: Josh Duggan 31
3: Jason Lee 31
6: Dylan Ford 25
7: Aaron Bain 24
8: Josh Aiken 23
9: Aiden De Campo 22
10: Zac Phillips 18
 

By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing Australia)

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