Orange heading to his first world driving championships

By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk

What a few days it's been for Blair Orange.

On Saturday he reined home five winners at Ashburton. Now the country's top driver has been confirmed as New Zealand's representative at this year's world driving championships.

The championships, back after a Covid-enforced hiatus, will be contested over 20 races at four different tracks in three different countries - the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium - from August 14-18.

This will be Orange's debut at the championships, with the five-time Kiwi champion driver realising a long-held ambition of wearing the Silver Fern at a major international event.

"I was hopeful I'd go and now I'm lucky enough to be asked," says Orange, "and to represent New Zealand is a real honour."

Orange will be trying to emulate the feats of our most recent world champions including Dexter Dunn (2015), Mark Jones (2003), Maurice McKendry (1991) and Tony Herlihy (1985).

While Orange has travelled to many places overseas this will be his first foray to Europe.

"It's always great going somewhere new and I'll stay on a week or so after and have a look around ... I'm really looking forward to it."

Domestically there are few drivers who travel more than Orange.

On Saturday at Ashburton it seemed he was just having a ho-hum day, a couple of placings - nothing special.

But then he turned unbeatable, winning the last five races, all for different trainers.

"Usually you'd get a couple for Cran and Chrissie (Dalgety) or the Courts and the Barrons but to have five different is pretty cool."

The wins were Hey Tonight (Barry Ward), Sam's Town (Robert and Jenna Dunn), Black Pearl (Cran and Chrissie Dalgety), Idle Stuartia (Rodger Austin) and Glover (Tim Trathen).

"Each horse has to be driven differently according to its attributes but winning always helps with the confidence and the decision making."

"It was a good day out all right."

Records show his haul at Ashburton was actually the 12th time he has had five or more wins at the one meeting, including twice when he has had six winners.

Of the dozen times eight have been at Manawatu, where he has a remarkable strike rate with trainer Michael House, and there has been one occasion each at Oamaru, Rangiora, Addington and now Ashburton.

After winning with Our Pinocchio at Wyndham on Sunday Orange has 23 wins this year, to be second overall, six wins behind leader John Dunn.

This Saturday Orange's success in the sulky will be recognised when he is crowned New Zealand's champion driver for the fifth straight year at the annual HRNZ Racing Awards at Addington Raceway.

Already 2023 is looking like more of the same, but with the big bonus in six months' time of getting to match his skills with some of the world's best.




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