Changes to Junior Driver criteria
New criteria have been approved to increase opportunities for the country's junior drivers.
Harness Racing New Zealand has agreed on the changes following extensive consultation between junior drivers, owners, trainers and other key industry personnel.
Under the old rules - in broad terms - junior drivers had to be aged between 17 and under 30yrs and have driven less than 100 wins with a guarantee of 6 seasons regardless of the number of winners driven if under 25yrs. For drivers 25yrs and older the maximum number of seasons they could be licensed as a Junior was 6 before having to graduate to Graduation or Open ranks.
Now that's all been tweaked.
The 30 year old cut-off is now gone for drivers as long as they are licensed as a Junior before turning 30yrs, haven't driven 100 winners or been a junior for six years.
"So someone who was a late bloomer for instance could be a junior driver well into their thirties, as long as they haven't had those 100 winners," says HRNZ's General Manager - Racing, Catherine McDonald.
And those who have been driving for six seasons will no longer have to hand in their junior drivers' licence. They can continue driving as a junior until they have 100 career wins or they turn 30.
"So if you started at say 20 you could theoretically be a junior driver for 10 years."
If you are under 30 you will still have six years as a junior regardless of the number of wins.
HRNZ has also confirmed that every junior driver who was finishing up on Dec 31, 2022 will now go through to July 31 2023.
Another initiative to encourage trainers to use junior drivers has also been confirmed.
Previously a 4YO and older horse in a ratings race (not MR) would only receive half points for winning if it was driven by a junior who had won 10 races or less, as long as it was not a penalty free win.
The limit has now been increased to 50 wins by a junior driver.
"Everything is all about keeping juniors in the sport," says McDonald, "we need to ensure they get enough opportunities to establish themselves."
The Junior Drivers also submitted on a range of programming / handicapping options and these will be considered in a wider programming review next year.
To view the criteria please click here