Series veteran bolsters northern team
By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
The North Island team may be light on experience ahead of the McMillan Equine Feeds New Zealand Junior Driver Championship at Addington Raceway this week, but series veteran Alicia Harrison will be looking to lead from the front.
The Cambridge horsewoman has competed in the previous three editions and won the series in her first attempt in 2018.
“It is always a good trip and a good time, and a good opportunity to showcase my talents,” Harrison said.
“The first year I was stoked to qualify for the series and go down there. It was my first proper season of driving and I had a little bit of success, but I wasn’t really expecting much.
“I was driving $20 and $30 shots and no one thought I would win, I was paying about $150.
“I was rapt to be down there and have the opportunity and a few things went my way and I managed to get the job done. When you don’t expect it and manage to win, it was pretty cool.”
The series looked to be lost last year until Harrison and a couple of other junior drivers pulled together to help save the Championship.
While she was pleased to attend the series last year, Harrison said she is appreciating not having the stresses of organising the event this year.
“It was a big effort to get it to go ahead last year. We had a whole heap of support, which was really amazing,” she said.
“We are pretty busy at work at the moment, so it is good I don’t have that added pressure this year.”
While there is a massive contrast in experience levels between the two teams, Harrison said the series is a good opportunity for some of her team members to get some exposure.
“The likes of John Morrison have had more drives this season than the whole lot of us put together,” Harrison said. “It is definitely a stark comparison. They drive week in, week out down there, so they are in-form.
“Hopefully a few of the younger ones get their chance to shine like I did in my first year and show what they are capable of.”
Harrison has two drives on the opening night of the competition on Thursday and rates them as her two best chances of the series.
She will take the reins behind the Brad Williamson-trained Rin Tin Tin in the McMillan Equine Feeds NZ Junior Drivers (Heat 1) Mobile Pace (1980m), and later in the night she will hop in the cart behind the Matt Purvis-trained Jenabella in the McMillan Equine Feeds NZ Junior Drivers (Heat 2) Handicap Pace (2600m).
“Rin Tin Tin won quite well at Forbury last start, it was quite a tough effort,” Harrison said.
“It looks a pretty even line-up and not the worst draw (6). Hopefully we can land handy and get out and get rolling when we have to. He should be a nice chance.
“I thought Jenabella went a really good race last time. She was well back in a big field and she ran home like a winner. Hopefully we can step well and get handy, and she can use that speed late in the piece.”