Orange to wear silver fern at world championships

By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk

The country's top driver Blair Orange leaves on Friday to take on the world's best. In many respects, it's a trip into the unknown.

The Canterbury-based reinsman will compete at the World Drivers' Championships in Europe. The championships will be contested over 20 races at four different tracks at three different countries - the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium - from August 14-18.

Ten drivers from all over the world will be involved, with the winner of each race receiving 17 points and then in descending order 12 (2nd), 9 (3rd) to one for 10th.

This will be Orange's debut at the showpiece event. It's also his first trip to Europe.

"It's going to be an exciting experience and I just hope I get the right horses, drive them properly and hopefully learn something from it all," says Orange.

So what research has he done into the horses he'll be driving?

"None," he says, "it would be a waste of time. I don't know the horses and I'll just have to work it out as it comes."

He'll be up against some highly accomplished rivals including Canadian Doug McNair, Australia's Pete McMullen and the Netherlands' Rick Ebbinge, who is the defending champion having won the last time the championship were held in 2019.

The championships have been going since 1970 and Orange is vying to be the seventh New Zealander to win the world title, following on from Dexter Dunn (2015), Mark Jones (2003), Maurice McKendry (1991), Tony Herlihy (1985), Robert Cameron (1983), and Kevin Holmes (1978). He has opened a $3 favourite on the NZ TAB to win the championships.

Orange is a five time New Zealand champion, having won the drivers' premiership in this country every year since 2018. He is currently leading the 2023 premiership as well with 99 wins, 28 clear of closest rival John Dunn.

With 2596 career wins, including three New Zealand Cups with Copy That (twice) and Cruz Bromac, Orange is the fourth most successful driver ever in this country, behind Tony Herlihy, Maurice McKendry and Ricky May.

After the world driving championship Orange plans to spend some time in Berlin before a decent break in and around New York.

"We'll be doing the touristy thing."

He'll also be catching up with the likes of ex-pat Kiwi driver Dexter Dunn who's had a sensational impact in North America in recent years.

Then it will be back home as the countdown to New Zealand Cup and Show Week gets into full swing.

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