Harrison happy to do her part

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk 

Two years ago Alicia Harrison won the New Zealand junior drivers championship.

Now the 24-year-old is a key figure in firstly saving and now running this year’s event.

The championship has been re-scheduled for Addington after initially being cancelled by Harness Racing New Zealand in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That decision prompted Harrison to spring into action. What started as messages of support on Facebook ultimately turned into a campaign that saw the series resurrected.

“I’m super thrilled the way things have turned out.”

‘We’ve had around pledges of around $10,000….. and we have $6500 in the bank account now.”

She estimates there have been around 50 individual donors.

“It’s been unreal.”

A junior driver who works for Arna Donnelly’s Cambridge stables, Harrison has had 33 wins in 386 drives since 2017. So how does she feel now about suddenly being the face of the campaign?

“I actually don’t think of it like that. I’m just happy to do my part.”

Not that she’s been doing this on her own, with fellow drivers Sheree Tomlinson and Luke Whittaker among those who are heavily involved. She says they have also had a lot of support , including offers of flights and accommodation for the drivers travelling from outside Christchurch.

Expat Kiwi trainer Tim Butt too has come to the party, saying he’ll fly the winner of the championship to Sydney during Miracle Mile week. The trip will include some drives at Menangle and Penrith.

HRNZ will determine the conditions of the series but the running of the event will rest with Harrison and her helpers.

“There are a few logistics to sort out but I think it will be ok. We are all pretty onto it – we are all in our twenties and it was a similar group to what we had last year. It’s a good group and we get on well. ”

Twelve drivers – six from the North island and six from the south - will compete over what’s likely to be six races on the Friday and Sunday (July 24 and 26).

“It’s the highlight of the year for us, it’s not just about the trophy, it’s about making connections with people in the industry and opening doors…. Winning it was ‘big for me’.”

Previous winners have included Maurice McKendry (1976-79), Anthony Butt (1985 and 88) and Mark Jones (2000) while the defending champion is Sarah O’Reilly, who last year went on to win the Australasian Young Drivers championship.

The on-track rivalry will be complemented by some fun off it.

“We have been thinking about a lunch on the Friday before the races, and maybe some paintball, or some shopping on the Saturday,” said Harrison.

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