Who's Into It

Amateur Driving in New Zealand has attracted people from all walks of life to become involved. Below are some profiles on our competitors and course participants, and reasons why they find it's such a buzz to be involved.

Mark Rosanowski - Trackside Presenter

Harness racing has provided much excitement in my life…all from the grandstand. Watching top horses win big races urged by tremendously talented drivers and prepared by the most meticulous of trainers.

I'd often thought I'd love to experience that thrill. I'll never be good enough to be there when the massive money is handed out but just to be closer to the animal, discover what goes into the preparation and get a taste of what it feels like to be pulled along at speed close to the ground.

The Amateur Drivers' course offers enthusiasts like me that opportunity and it must be taken up. It is made easy & accessible by people who want to share their love of the horse and of harness racing.

What I enjoyed the most about participating in the course was that it was predominantly practical with little time spent sitting around and talking. The sitting was done in the sulky once we'd learned the rudimentary requirements for our safety and that of the horses. There was the desired mix of a casual, fun approach with determined application when required.

I was amazed at how quickly we progressed from basic care & gearing up to working horses on the track and even scoring up at speed behind the mobile. I can't think of a better way to satisfy the ambition of participating in a sport that makes the adrenalin pump and who knows you just might want to take it further.

Karen Hollander - New Zealand Amateur Champion 2005

I have been interested in harness racing for years through racing horses in syndicates and breeding. It was always a dream to be able to be more involved in the industry so when the first amateur drivers course was offered it was my husband Steve who booked onto the first course. After watching him from the sideline and in a supporting role around the stables, Steve suggested that I do the course as well. I completed the amateur course, drove the 10 novice races and sat my time trial all in time to begin the series in September 2004. I had to obtain a license to train as well so that we could train our amateur horses at home.

The things that I love about being involved in amateur driving is the comradery amongst the drivers along with the competitive nature of our races. There is a lot of trust between you and your horse and when the mobile gate takes off and you are sitting behind a horse, the speed and adrenaline rush is immense. Being able to drive at Addington and Alexandra Park and not looking from the sideline is a buzz and you really have to pinch yourself at times.

We have a lot of fun during the series and everyone is very supportive of each other. We also have the opportunity to drive against International teams and I recently enjoyed that experience driving against a team from the USA and Wales. Travelling to International locations to compete is also readily available. In July our first series against Australia will take place in Queensland in a series of races just before the Bledisloe Cup.

My biggest achievement is winning the New Zealand Amateur Championship in my first year of driving and going to the World Championship in Austria to represent New Zealand.

Sheldon Murtha - Global Harness Racing Producer/Presenter

Being so popular throughout Europe and North America meant it was a "no brainer" that amateur harness race driving would be a similar success in New Zealand, it just needed someone with suitable enthusiasm to get it rolling.

Ann and Steve Phillips are therefore responsible for one of the most exciting initiatives to come to the sport down under.

Amateur driving gives harness racing another major participation edge over thoroughbred racing. Not many in their right mind can walk off the street and find the right stuff to consider riding a racehorse, but driving a racehorse? Now that's a possibility.

In fact, any sport loves a cross section of enthusiasts and participants. The first amateur drivers race I lined up in pitted a grand mother against an insurance broker versus a scrap metal dealer and a lawyer clashing with a television presenter against an accountant! The grand mother won!

Amateur race driving comes with an across the board satisfaction guarantee. Whether it's a regular run around at the Saturday afternoon workouts or the highly competitive provincial, national or international championships out of town or overseas. It also provides an appreciation for the subtleties of racing in regards to the horse's fitness and welfare, their training programmes and ultimately driving and race tactics. You will never truly "bag" a trainer or driver again!

I can't recommend, "giving it a go", enough!