by Matt Markham
He’s out to win a national title, but Matt Anderson is also giving a little bit back this weekend.
The talented junior driver, who currently sits second on the national premiership, is a contender in this weekend’s McMillan Equine Feed New Zealand Junior Drivers’ Championship and will compete in the competition, and throughout the weekend, wearing the colours of Ronald McDonald House.
“I did a bit of fundraising for them back in January and managed to raise $2,000 which was great,” Anderson said.
“They got a set of silks made for me and asked if there was any other opportunities in which I could wear them, and I suggested that maybe the Junior Drivers’ Championships would be a good opportunity.”
Anderson will donate his driving fees from the series, and any other outside drives he has over the course of the weekend’s racing to the charity, and is pleased to be able to do something for such a worthwhile charity.
“They are awesome, the work they do and the services they provide to people is incredible.
“It’s just nice to be able to do my own little bit to help.”
While the gratitude of being able to do something good is seemingly enough for Anderson, he’s still hell bent on getting his name engraved on the Junior Driver Championship trophy over the course of the two meetings at Addington and Forbury.
It’s Addington on Friday though where Anderson feels he can really put his claim forward for the series.
In Shesa Tricky Bridge he holds a really strong chance of success for John McDermott.
The four-year-old mare has been in really strong form of late including a late-finishing runner-up effort behind Scotlyn Jack last time out at Timaru, where she was unlucky not to win after being held up.
“She looks a pretty good chance, her form is really solid and it’s a pretty even looking field.
“Hopefully we can get the right run and use her late speed to our advantage, I thought she was definitely my best drive of the series for sure.”
Anderson also jumps on Smooth Mara for Peter Bagrie in the second heat of the night at Addington.
He rated his best chance of the day at Forbury Park as Martin McGuinness for Mataura trained, Lyndon Bond.
“He looks to be a bit of a chance if we can ping off the gate and find the markers,” Anderson said.
“His form has been pretty solid and he’s always a chance.”
He drives the talented, but enigmatic King Cassidy in the second heat tonight.
With 25 wins on the board, still nine shy of premiership leader Rory McIlwrick, Anderson has probably run out of time to catch the tearaway leader but one more win will see him surpass his previous best figure – which is a notable achievement in itself.
“I hoped to better last season and hopefully I can with a few weeks remaining.
“It’s been a good season and I’ve had some really good support along the way too which I am really thankful for.”
Kimberly Butt also said she was hugely in favour of the change.
“The chance to drive in more races certainly makes it a lot more about the actual talent of the driver I think.
“You still need to get a bit of luck when it comes to the horses you draw, but you get more of an opportunity to show your skills with more races which is good.”
Butt has two strong chances on the second day of the championship tomorrow. .
Her first drive, Celebrity Easton, hails from the stable of Amber Hoffman and was a solid second when last produced at Timaru.
“He went quite good last time out,” she said.
“It looks like he needs a bit of luck in his race, so hopefully we can find some and be right in it.”
Her second drive is the in-form Scarlett Lane, a recent addition to the Nathan Williamson barn after previously racing for Steve Lock.
The Deidre Don seven-year-old mare is in the form of her life and a complete performance will see her right in the mix.
“She’s been really good lately, my only concern is probably drawing one in her first start off the unruly, but Nathan will have her ready to go which always gives you a bit of confidence.”
Butt has the added incentive to win the story of attempting to follow in her father, Anthony’s footsteps.
He won the series in 1985 and then again in 1988.
With 568 wins between them, the group competing this year boast plenty of experience and skill but deciding who stands head and shoulders above the rest of the field is a tricky task.
As well as racing for individual glory, the drivers will also compete for their Islands in a North against South battle over the four races.
Rory McIlwrick heads the South Island team after qualifying with the most points and is joined by Matt Anderson, Kimberly Butt, Sheree Tomlinson, Katie Cox and John Morrison. Dylan Ferguson qualified top of the North Island with Ben Butcher, Jack MacKinnon, Tony Cameron, Mark Johnson and Robert Argue gaining the rest of the highly sought after spots.
The 2017 edition of the championship has seen a major change in the way the event has run.
Harness Racing New Zealand have elected to shift away from the traditional one night of racing at Addington and instead are hitting the road and adding two races at Forbury to the menu.
|Matt Markham’s Addington Selections|
|Race 1: Di’z Luck, Fiery Comet, Girlz N Boyz, Elvis P|
|Race 2: Shes’a Tricky Bridge, Earthquake, Take After Me, Bettor Chance|
|Race 3: Duplicated, Hypervelocity, Covered N Diamonds, Scotlyn Justis|
|Race 4: Christmas Toyboy, Last Party, Dcotor Tim, Divinia Bellezza|
|Race 5: Gypsy’s Choice, Gunpowder, Pat Campbell, Got A Beauty|
|Race 6: Malik, Rishi, Donegal Carrickfin, Christopher Banner|
|Race 7: Vera’s Delight, Especial, Playboy Prince, Raphoe|
|Race 8: Ronald J, All Settled Down, All Lit Up, Redwood Invasion|
|Race 9: Spondulicks, Sharnae, For The Corz, Theboyslightup|
|Best Bet: Christmas Toyboy (Race 4)|
|Value: Shes’a Tricky Bridge (Race 2)|
Approved By Dean Baring www.harnessbred.com
Driving The Future Of Harness Racing