Tasracing has selected the 10 participants for the 2018 BOTRA Claiming Novice Drivers’ series.
The drivers are Matthew Cooper, Taylor Ford, Samantha Gangell, Samantha Freeman (Emergency), Wade Rattray, Allister Woods, Krisy Grant, Braden Howlett, Charlie Castles, Connor Crook and Brady Woods.
The series for drivers who are eligible to claim a concession will be conducted at Devonport on 29 June, Hobart on 1 July and Launceston on 6 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 Drivers’ title up to 3 June 2018.
New competitors in this year’s series are Conor Crook, Braden Howlett and Charlie Castles.
Crook drove one winner in Tasmania in 2016/17 after moving to the state from NSW to work for Ben Yole. In NSW he drove 12 winners from 271 drives with 44 placings collecting $90,000 in prize money.
Another relative newcomer to the industry in Tasmania is Matthew Cooper.
The 48-year-old first drove in 2014 and has enjoyed success with his stable star Call Her Julie winning six of 29 starts.
Wade Rattray, whose surname is well-known in harness racing around Australia, represented Tasmania in the 2016 Australasian Young Driver’s Championship in Perth.
His best season was in 2014/15 driving 16 winners to finish second to Dylan Ford in the Tasmanian Junior Driver’s Premiership.
Rattray drove Lead Singer to victory in heat five of the recent Youngbloods series in Launceston.
Sam Freeman was the runner Up to Natalee Emery in last season’s Leading Female Driver award with 10 winners.
She has spent a life time in the industry.
She says she was born on Christmas Eve, went home on Christmas day and went to the races on Boxing Day.
Allister Woods has developed a great association with a horse he trains Laughyourheadoff, combining for numerous wins on the north-west coast.
Last year’s winner Brady Woods added the recently concluded 6tyo Youngbloods Challenge to his titles with a seven-point win over Samantha Gangell with Hannah Van Dogen in third a further three points back.
Woods drove two winners in the six heat challenge.
BOTRA Claiming Novice Drivers’ 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), Adrian Collins (2016) and Brady Woods (2017).
Tasracing chief executive officer Vaughn Lynch said the BOTRA Claiming Novice Drivers’ Series was a highlight for those drivers looking to establish themselves 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 a key focus of the series was to welcome, encourage and support the development of new participants in the industry.
“BOTRA embraced the initiative from day one,” he said.
“The age of the driver starting out in the harness code is not important in this series.
“We are obviously very keen to support all breeders, owners, trainers and drivers in a harness racing career.”