Catch Driver Cadet of the Year - Cameron Kirkwood

Leading up to the final of the 2019 Catch Driver Cadet of the Year we will be highlighting the contenders and their involvement in the harness racing industry.

Cameron Kirkwood won the Canterbury heat and works part time for Regan Todd’s Woodend based stable. He is also a full time employee of Harness Racing New Zealand.

Cameron has worked for Regan for three years, and commutes to the stable from Christchurch, helping out in the weekends and also on public holidays.

He has had a long association with the industry through his family, so it was no surprise that Cameron chose to follow a career in harness racing.

“I have been associated my whole life with my family being involved in harness racing,” he explained. “I was in the industry before I could even walk.”

"My hands on interest started with Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett. I used to help them out in the school holidays. I guess I got the bug when helping them out, I then knew I wanted to be in the industry.”

And whilst he had planned on following a different path in harness racing, the chance arose to work for Harness Racing New Zealand on a full time basis.

“Initially I thought I might become a driver and go on and get my trials licence and pursue a driving career, but then the opportunity came up at HRNZ four years ago to be a part of the team and I jumped at the chance,” Cameron said.

“My role at HRNZ is a varied one. It includes helping with handicapping, nominations and sorting fields in the early part of my week, and also gear and trainer notifications.”

“Around the end of the week I work on the horse registration side of things, including foal registrations, which we are busy with at the moment.”

The young stock of harness racing are a real focus for Cameron also, who has had good success through the breeding aspect of the industry.

“I’ve been involved with the breeding side of things too. I just love my breeding.”

“If I won lotto I’d say I’d just buy 100 mares and go for it! I just love it. I love the young horses. There’s no rhyme or reason where a good horse can come from.”

Cameron has also been able to experience the thrill of group one success through his family’s breeding endeavours, which has only fueled the fire more for his passion for breeding.

“A highlight for me was seeing Massive Metro just an hour after he was born. Then being able to watch him right through to winning the National Trot, which was also a race that his mother won.”

“It kind of gives you hope when you see a horse do that. He’s not that commercially bred, so it just encourages you to keep going.”

Cameron credits many people for being able to mentor him and give him advice through the stable work and drive aspects of his harness racing career. 

"My mentors early on were Michelle and Bernie, they taught me a lot and the ground work and basics around harness racing and I appreciate that. Robbie Close and Sam Ottley were also really good to me and have been really helpful too.”

“I’ve learned so much from working with Regan Todd. Regan is fantastic to learn from. He’s not afraid to stop what he is doing and show you not only how to do something, but why to do it. Which really makes a difference when you are learning new things,” explained Cameron.

His favourite horse to work with is based in Regan’s care, two win pacer Ohoka Achilles.

“He’s an absolute dude,” said Cameron. “He’s so laid back for a colt. You’d think he’s a gelding he is so chilled out to work with.  He’s had his fair share of issues but when he’s right he’s a very good horse.”

Fortunately for Cameron, he tends to get along with horses better than he does push bikes. In a profile for the Catch Driver Cadet of the Year, he revealed his horrific run with crashes from his bike.

“I’ve had several push bike accidents; I came off so many times. I almost lost a finger at one stage and had to get a couple of new teeth put in. I’ve also had skin grafts and plastic surgery.”

Qualifying for the Cadet of the Year final came as a surprise but he had been hopeful leading into the Canterbury heat.

“I knew that last year I got fifth I think and I went relatively well. But I also went a cadet record in the time trial and went a little bit too quick…”

“So I thought this year if I slowed down and another years’ experience a bit I might be thereabouts, but winning it was definitely a surprise. I am just really honoured to be a part of it.”

“My strengths going into the final would probably be the quiz or general knowledge, and the ‘Who Am I’ kind of questions. I have a good memory for that side of things and breeding especially.”

“As long as they don’t throw in a singing or dancing challenge. That wouldn’t be flash.”

The 2019 Catch Driver Cadet of the Year final will be held on July 24th, with the winner announced at this year’s annual awards ceremony at Addington Raceway on September 28.  

We thank the generous sponsorship of the Catch Driver game, which is a free harness racing game available for download from your app store and allows you to drive in live harness racing games with people from around the world.

To download visit: http://onelink.to/gme7ve 

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