A mixture of experience and exciting young talent makes up the field of 12 for this year’s McMillan Equine Feeds New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship.
After months of competing against each other in junior driver only races around the country the six finalists from each island have been found and the group will come together to compete at Addington in a three-race series on July 31 in the annual event.
A popular contest each year for the rising stars of the harness racing industry, the championships has been a natural stepping stone for many of the now current open rank drivers and this year’s group of 12 promises to provide more of the same for future years.
Current national junior driver’s premiership leader, Samantha Ottley leads the charge and will be one of three female competitors in the event alongside Michelle Neilson and Katie Cox.
The trio of South Island ladies will be joined by Robbie Close, Brad Williamson and Southland’s Craig Ferguson.
Sailesh Abernethy, who trails Ottley by two wins on the national premiership finished top qualifier in the North Island while Australasian Young Drivers Champion, Andre Poutama is also in the mix.
The pair will be joined on the flight to Christchurch by Andrew Veint, Dylan Ferguson, Tony Cameron and Shane Butcher, the latter of whom makes a return to the series after finishing runner-up in 2011.
The 12 drivers have won close to 500 races between them, further underlining their abilities in the sulky.
Butcher, Ottley, Poutama, Williamson, Veint and Close have all competed in the series before while Abernethy, Cameron, Neilson, Cox and the two Fergusons’ will all be making their championship debut.
Held over a potential three races, the competition sees the drivers receive points dependent on their finishing position in each of the heats and with drives allocated at random, declaring a favourite to win the title this far out from race night is impossible.
As well as the individual glory, the two teams of six will also compete for an inter-island challenge trophy which is decided for by the combination of each island’s total points for the night’s racing.
Harness Racing New Zealand