Top drivers in Pirie

KATE'S COMING HOME: Kate Gath (formerly Thompson) will return home to Port Pirie for the Elders Drivers Invitation Meeting.

KATE'S COMING HOME: Kate Gath (formerly Thompson) will return home to Port Pirie for the Elders Drivers Invitation Meeting.

With the yearly upgrade completed on the Port Pirie Harness Racing Track, all will be in tip top order for next Sunday’s Elders Drivers Invitation Meeting. The top of the track has been removed and rolled solid with twenty loads of shell grit placed on top to give a good racing surface.

This upgrade is done so that the track will remain in fine racing condition throughout the rest of the year. Harness Racing SA has helped with this cost but in the coming years that cost will need to be covered by the club as HRSA is cutting costs in most areas. On Sunday, June 24, at the Elders Drivers Invitation, the club has top drivers coming from five states and they all have very fine credentials.

Over past years the club has mainly invited interstate drivers from Victoria but this year have invited from other states. The three South Australian Drivers are currently 1, 2, 3 on the Port Pirie Drivers Premiership Ladder, Danielle Hill was the leading driver at Port Pirie last season, while Jayden Brewin was the leading young driver which gained him a start in this prestigious event. The first race will be 4.03pm.

Shannon Suvaljko (WA) has 1502 total wins and 150 this season

Peter McMullen (Qld) 1587 total wins, 122 this season

The husband and wife duo Pete McMullen and Chantal Turpin, who have formed a trainer-driver partnership that shapes as a cornerstone of the Queensland harness racing industry for decades to come. The Turpin and McMullen families are steeped in harness racing tradition. Pete is the son of John and the grandson of “Hollywood John’’ McMullen, a pioneer of sending Australian horses to America.

Nathan Turvey (WA) 910  total wins, 62 this season

In 1998, Turvey played his first game for the Hawthorn Football Club, where he went on to play a further nine games before being delisted prior to the 2000 season. Turvey describes his time in the AFL as a good experience but if he could, he would do a few things differently.In 2001 Turvey was first licenced in harness racing.  Born and raised in Narrogin, Turvey learnt the ropes from his Father Neville and helped his dad around the stables before school and on the weekends.

Kate Gath (VIC/Pt Pirie) 1286 total wins, 85 this season

Ex Port Pirie girl, Kate Gath (nee Thompson) is married to Andy Gath, who whisked her away to live in Victoria. Kate and Andy Gath have long been recognised as one of the most astute stables right throughout Australia. Through the careful placement of their horses in races which are handpicked by the Long Forest trainers, they are able to maximise the potential of any horse.

Chris Geary (NSW) 464 total wins, 88 this season

Chris Geary made his mark in NSW driving ranks as a young teenager by winning the Young Harness racing Club’s Ross Gigg Memorial Rising Star series in 2014. Four years on, Geary is making an impact on the senior driver’s premiership table and winning his share of feature events along the way. Geary is amongst a group of very promising young drivers who are establishing themselves as potential stars.

Anthony Butt  (NZ / VIC) 1022 total wins, 62 this season

Starting out as a driver and entering the sport as a 17-year-old in 1983, Anthony began carving out a distinguished career with a victory in just his third start in a race.

His first season saw him win the New Zealand Junior Title.From there it has been a career dreams are made from by his Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final victory with the great Lyell Creek (2000) and Take A Moment (2001 and 2003).

He also scored a Pacing Grand Final victory in 2009 (Mr. Feelgood USA). His success in the industry has also been a family affair as his brother Tim does the training for the stable and has been instrumental in Anthony’s and the stables success.

Danielle Hill (SA) 1451 total wins, 170 this season

Champion reinswoman Danielle Hill added another highlight to her impressive resume at Port Pirie in March by equalling the Australian driving record of six winners at a meeting.

Hill became the 19th driver in Australia to achieve the feat, and interestingly, joined her brother Wayne which drove six at Victor Harbor on December 28, 2015 and also her partner David Harding, who drove six at Globe Derby Park on February 18, 2006.

Wayne Hill (SA) 1176 total wins, 127 this season

As a freelance driver in South Australia, with only three meetings a week, Hill has done exceptionally well.

In 2016 he was crowned Australian Driving Champion when he scored top points in a meeting at Globe Derby Park competing against the country’s best.

Jayden Brewin (SA) 137 total wins, 74 this season

Jayden secured the South Australian junior drivers title in just his second season of race driving.

In 2017 he represented SA in the Australasian Young Drivers’ Championship.

Michael Bellman (Vic)  1283 total, 68 this season

If anything is likely to deter a youngster from following his parents into the harness racing industry, you’d think it would be his grandfather’s death during the running of a race.

Michael Bellman grew up knowing that was how his dad’s father, Pat Bellman, lost his life.

Bellman Snr was involved in a tight finish in a race at Ballarat when he suffered a massive heart attack. Not even the close proximity of the on-course ambulance could save Bellman, who died on the track.That was more than 30 years ago.

So, you can see it will be an exciting meeting with some of the best drivers from around Australia. 4.03 pm on Sunday. See you at the track!

                           - SUE PENNY