Drivers announced for BOTRA Claiming Novice Drivers Series

Monday 20 July 2020

Tasracing has announced the 12 drivers for the 2020 BOTRA Claiming Novice Drivers Series.

As was the case last season, the four-race series will be held in Launceston on Friday night, 21 August, and as the name suggest the series is restricted to Tasmanian licensed Claiming Novice Drivers.

Competing in this year’s series:

Conor Crook – who is a past winner of the series scoring back in 2018. The News South Wales born driver now calls Tasmania home where he has made an impact on the local racing scene, and he currently sits in fourth spot on this seasons state drivers title. Crook is closing in on his 100th career win in the sulky, and he currently has 96 victories to his credit.

Samantha Gangell – was last seasons leading female driver in Tasmania. So far this season she has driven 16 winners but has registered 55 placings. Gangell has recently taken out her trainers license and her first win as a trainer in Burnie on 15 March with Navua Pixie.

Hannah Van Dongen – finished in tenth position on the states drivers premiership last season with 24 wins and 38 placings and the Carrick based driver has already started the 2019-2020 season well with 22 winners which sees her sit at the top of the Female Drivers Premiership.

Taylor Ford – has registered 85 career winners in the sulky and she has been driving in terrific form since racing returned from the COVID shutdown, driving eight winners including a treble in Hobart on 19 June. She also prepares a small team of horses at Brighton with 12 training wins to her credit.

Lachlan Dakin – had his first race drive in March 2018 before driving his first winner in August that year aboard Goggo Gee Gee. Dakin drove six winners last season, and he is set to pass that total this season.

Troy McDonald – is a former Victorian driver who now calls Tasmania home. McDonald is the most successful driver in the series with 115 winners to his credit, 35 of those coming this season. Some of his feature wins this season include the Art Meeker Memorial Matron Stakes in Hobart aboard El Jays Mystery, the Dash For Cash in Devonport with Gotta Good Reason and the Eric Reece Memorial with Capitallee.

Ben Woodsford – hails from New Zealand and had been gathering experience in Australia from several leading stables before finding his way to Tasmania last year. Woodsford had his first race drive at Menangle in May 2016 aboard Big Bang Penny who gave him his first winner at Newcastle in August 2016. He has driven a total of 47-wins through his career.

Charlie Castles – is continuing a strong family tradition into the industry and is the sole north-west coast based competitor in this year’s series. Castles spent many weeks over the festive period with former Tasmanian trainer-driver James Rattray at his New South Wales base where Castles was able to drive Joogle to victory at Canberra plus multiple placings on the metropolitan and provincial circuit.

Andrew Freeman – drove his first win aboard Hez The One in April last year. So far this season he has driven two winners from limited opportunities. His biggest success to date was on the Heath Woods trained The Shallows in a heat of the Youngbloods Challenge late last year.

Sam Clotworthy – is the newest driver to the states driving ranks, having his first race drive in mid-June. The New Zealand born reinsman has worked for a number of the countries leading thoroughbred trainers including Gai Waterhouse, Clinton McDonald and Anthony Cummings. The 24-year-old drove Nancys Baby to victory at $41 in Hobart on 26 June which is his only win in the sulky today, but it certainly won’t be his last.

Georgia Hayward – The Scottsdale reinswoman drove her first winner at odds of $101 when It Is A Glacier scored in Launceston in early February. She has gained valuable experience through trainer Kent Rattray, and she has also spent many months in the past working for dual Inter Dominion winning trainer James Rattray at his New South Wales stables.

Malcom Jones – is another participant continuing a strong family tradition. Jones spent a lot of his early childhood on King Island before moving to mainland Tasmania when his parents returned home. Jones drove his first winner aboard Mi Ju Dan on King Island earlier this year.

An emergency for the series will be confirmed by Tasracing in due course.

The series was first held in 2012, with BOTRA sponsoring the series every year since its inception.

Previous winners of the series include;

  • 2019 – Matthew Cooper,
  • 2018 – Conor Crook,
  • 2017 – Brady Woods,
  • 2016 – Adrian Collins,
  • 2015 – Lyarna Graham and Tim Yole,
  • 2014 – Samantha Freeman and Tim Yole,
  • 2013 – Braden Howlett,
  • 2012 – Craig Hayes.

*All figures correct as at 20/07/20.