Tasracing has selected the 10 participants for the 2017 BOTRA Claiming Novice Drivers’ series.
The drivers are Matthew Cooper, Taylor Ford, Samantha Freeman, Sam Gangell, Justin Howlett, Jack Laugher, Shaun Kennedy (Emergency), Wade Rattray, Hannah Vandongen, Allister Woods and Brady Woods.
The series for drivers who are eligible to claim a concession will be conducted at Devonport on 30 June, Hobart on 2 July and Launceston on 9 July.
They are the top five concession drivers from last season’s Junior Driver award and the best five performers this season in the State Driver’s title up to 4 June 2017.
Newcomers to the series from last year are Matthew Cooper, Justin Howlett, Jack Laugher, Shaun Kennedy, Hannah Vandongen and Brady Woods.
Forty-seven-year-old Cooper commenced his driving career in October 2014 and the series will be the first time he has driven horses for other trainers.
He is well credentialed to make the transition after the two horses he trains this season, Onemorelaugh (two wins and seven placings from 20 starts) and Call Her Julie (two wins and five placings from 12 starts), have demonstrated his ability as a trainer and driver.
The series commenced in 2012. Previous winners are Craig Hayes (2012), Braden Howlett (2013), Sam Freeman and Tim Yole (tie 2014), Lyarna Graham and Tim Yole (tie 2015) and Adrian Collins (2016).
Tasracing chief executive officer Vaughn Lynch said the BOTRA Claiming Novice Drivers’ Series was an annual highlight for drivers who were endeavouring to become established in the industry.
“The novice driver concession ensures newcomers to race driving have genuine opportunities to succeed,” he said.
“This series is always keenly contested as demonstrated by the dead heats for first in recent years.”
BOTRA president Barrie Rattray said his organisation was committed to supporting all participants but a key focus was to welcome, encourage and support the development of new industry entrants.
“BOTRA embraced the initiative to develop the series in 2012 and it was a logical progression to sponsor the series,” he said.
“Regardless of the age of drivers starting out in harness racing all are important for the future of the industry.
“BOTRA endeavours to support all breeders, owners, trainers and drivers in their pursuit for success in harness racing.”