THE rising driving stars of the New South Wales harness racing industry will converge on the Bathurst Paceway this Wednesday night as they continue their battle for state bragging rights.
The Bathurst Harness Racing Club is staging two heats of the annual NSW Rising Stars series, one which has featured the likes of siblings Amanda and Mitch Turnbull plus Ashlee Grives in the past.
The initiative gives young drivers from across the state the chance to drive for different trainers at different tracks and it culminates with them taking part in Sunday’s big Breeders Challenge Finals meeting at Menangle Park.
Bathurst will stage heats three and four, following on after the opening heats raced at Young on Tuesday.
“We’ve been doing it [hosting heats] for a few years now, I’m not exactly sure how long, but we’ve been one of the clubs included in the schedule of races since the series has been up and running,” Bathurst Harness Racing Club’s chief executive officer Danny Dwyer said.
“It’s definitely a great opportunity for these sort of drivers, it is most likely that they have not had the opportunity to drive at this level before and particularly not had the chance to drive at Menangle.
“Drivers, particularly those out in country areas, don’t often get that opportunity. It’s amazing to see that once that get that sort of opportunity, it can really kick-start their career.
“It’s a great initiative and we are very happy to support it.”
Unlike previous seasons, this year the Western Districts of which Bathurst is a part, only has one representative in the series.
That is McKayler Barnes, who currently drives for the Bathurst stable of Peter Bullock.
She steered her first winner at Young back in 2015 – King Caractacus for trainer Anne Hancock – and since then has enjoyed plenty more success in the gig.
On Wednesday night at Bathurst she will drive Sabrage for The Lagoon’s Steve Turnbull, a trainer she has previously worked for, and Bertie Francis from Mike Watson’s Bathurst stable.
“McKayler has been driving very well lately,” Dwyer said.
Dwyer said the response from local trainers for the series this year – as has been the case in the past – has been strong.
“We never struggle for horse numbers, we’ve always been able to get full fields. The attraction is that the heats are penalty free as well, so if they happen to win they don’t get a penalty,” Dwyer said.
“We always get good quality fields.”