Voting for the prestigious Halwes Medal has changed this year with three of the state’s best and most popular harness racing participants having been nominated for the award.
In the past, a selection panel has provided votes after each meeting of the season based on a 3-2-1- basis, with the Halwes Medal recipient awarded to the trainer or driver with the most votes.
Meetings were held to discuss the way the Halwes Medal is awarded, with a consensus that it would be better to call for nominations, much the same as the Edgar Tatlow Medal.
Those nominated for the Halwes Medal will be invited to the awards dinner and those present at the function will cast their votes on who they believe should be the recipient.
This year’s nominees are Heath Woods, Rohan Hillier, and Marc Butler.
Heath Woods, who went into hibernation for a decade, has returned with a vengeance, primarily courtesy of his well-performed open class pacer The Shallows that capped a great season with victory in the Group 3 Tassie Golden Apple in Launceston. He also had success with his filly Stepping Stones, that won a heat of the Evicus Stakes.
Woods has been involved in harness racing in one way or another for almost three decades and it was his son Aaron’s interest in horses that encouraged Heath to go out and buy some horses and return to the industry as a participant.
Rohan Hillier has long been one of the state’s best trainers and drivers and this past season he enjoyed great success with his stable star Ryley Major that had 22 starts for 14 wins and seven minor placings.
While Hillier enjoyed success in the sulky with Ryley Major, he ended the season with 71 winners to finish second to Gareth Rattray who ended the extended season with 73 wins.
Hillier also trained 48 winners from 148 starters for a strike rate of 32.4 per cent.
Marc Butler has long been considered a master horseman and this past season he took his training business to a new level preparing 42 winners and 34 minor placegetters from only 128 starters for a winning strike rate of 32.8 per cent and a placed rate of almost 60 per cent.
Butler won a number of feature races in 2020 but none more pleasing than the Tasmanian Oaks with his three-year-old filly A Spanish Dance that also captured the 3YO Fillies Championship.
His relocation to a training complex-homestead at Pipers River and marriage to his long-time partner Kristy Grant has contributed to his success in season 2020.