By Garrick Knight
While their fellow countrymen and women are on the big stage at Alexandra Park for the Inter Dominions, half-a-dozen lesser known Australian drivers have made their way across the ditch for some trans-tasman competition as well.
They’re here for the Australasian Young Drivers Championship, which kicks off at Addington tonight before moving to Methven on Sunday, Palmerston North Tuesday and Thursday, then Auckland on Friday.
Travelling the furthest for the series is West Australia’s Corey Peterson who, at 19, is the youngest of the 12 drivers in the series.
When told of his selection recently, he didn’t quite believe it.
“My old boss, Kristian Hawkins loves playing jokes on me.
“He was always ringing me pretending to be someone else so when I got the call, I thought it was him at first.
“I hung up thinking it was a joke, but then the email arrived the next day and knew it was actually real.”
It’s his first trip to New Zealand and he can’t wait to get amongst it.
“Really, really excited to go away and represent my state.
“The New Zealand style of racing is all new to me. I’ve heard some of the drivers talking about it but I don’t know a lot.
“So, I actually spoke to Gary Hall Jnr about it and he went through a few of the different rules to do with pushing out and pushing down, just the basics.”
He’s especially looking forward to driving on the grass at Methven on Sunday, which will be another first.
“That’s going to be an experience and a half. I’ve heard it’s quite bumpy.”
Peterson spent some time working for Hall Jnr and his father, Hall Snr, before joining Hawkins.
“The best horse I’ve driven would be Ideal Liner of theirs.
“I worked there for about 10 months. I just started off doing yards and that kind of thing, then started jogging them and them a full tie job opportunity came up.
“At the time you don’t think you’re learning much from guys like that, but when you leave the place, you realise how much you actually did.“
A typical week for Peterson consists of “12 or 13 drives” at all tracks state-wide.
“I’m at Northam at the moment and I drove two winners at Pinjarra last night which was a surprise, because it’s a track where I never have any luck.”
“From my house it’s roughly an hour-and-a-half each way to all the tracks. I’m smack bang in the middle.”
Peterson has drawn the Kevin Townley-trained mare, Chasing Great in tonight’s first heat, rated a $15-shot by bookies,
At Methven on Sunday he has live chance Beau Major while he’s drawn Amaro, Jessie Kelly and Rake in typically even fields at Manawatu on Tuesday.
The field: Sheree Tomlinson (defending champion), Sarah O’Reilly (NZ champion), Benjamin Butcher (North Island), John Morrison (South Island), Cameron Hart (New South Wales), Conor Crook (Tasmania), Brodie Webster (South Australia), Corey Peterson (Western Australia), Matthew Elkins (Queensland), Zac Phillips (Victoria).