It has been 30 years since an Australian has won harness racing’s World Driving Championships. The drought is even harder to swallow considering our neighbours New Zealand have had three reinsmen win it since our last victory. New Zealand has actually won the WDC six times since its inception in 1970, more than any other country in the world.
The recent Aussie results are not spectacular, only one Australian driver has finished inside the top 5 since the turn of the century. Kerryn Manning finished 4th in 2007 but on average the Australian representative has finished 8th since the beginning of the new millenium.
Queensland’s Shane Graham will represent his country at the World Driving Championships for the first time. The 35-year old has driven 2488 winners in his career and was Australia’s leading driver in 2014/15.
The first of five legs in the 2017 WDC will be held on Saturday night at Calgary’s Century Downs. Race broadcaster Shannon ‘Sugar’ Doyle has passed on his thoughts on each of Shane’s drives on night one.
Heat 1 – Shane Graham will drive Drawing Dead from barrier 1 (Sunday 10:22am on SKY)
Sugar says DRAWING DEAD was claimed 2 starts ago, after dropping in price and remains at the same level here. This horse showed much better last time out for trainer Tyler Redwood with a solid 1:58.2 mile time. With the rail and his good early speed Graham could have this one in the hunt early and sticking around late. *Stiffest competition could come from 4 Freesia (Dexter Dunn NZ), 5 Viola (Mark Purdon NZ) & 10 Ashlynn Grace (Marcus Miller USA).
Heat 2 – Shane Graham will drive Mystery Mania from barrier 2 (Sunday 10:46am on SKY)
Sugar says MYSTERY MANIA could be sitting on a win with 3 straight runner-up finishes. Her latest deuce was actually at the 1 1/16M distance - so she has that going for her. She's on great form and gets an inside post to work with - so you have to like Graham's chances here. *Beware of the 1 Emmas Big Girl (Bjorn Goop SWE), 4 Brighten Your Life (Mika Forss FIN), 6 Moon Struct (Marcus Miller USA) & 9 Lissoy (Dexter Dunn NZ).
Heat 3 – Shane Graham will drive Pinkmakesboyswink from barrier 5 (Sunday 11:10am on SKY)
Sugar says PINKMAKESBOYSWINK may be Graham's best shot at a victory in this first leg of the WDC. This mare has been finishing very strong for trainer Rene Goulet and she's got the speed to be a serious contender in here. She just missed last time out and this start could be the race she delivers a win for the Aussie. *Possible threats are 2 Exclusive (James MacDonald CAN), 4 Kavola (Marcus Miller USA), 6 Miss Bojangles (Bjorn Goop SWE) & 11 Astrid The Axe (Dexter Dunn NZ)
Heat 4 – Shane Graham will drive Outlawintriguedbyu from barrier 10 (Sunday 11:34am on SKY)
Sugar says OUTLAWINTRIGUEDBYU leaves from a trailing spot - from behind the rail horse 1 and that rail horse looks live here. She just needs to follow that live play and stay close to be a serious factor here. She is facing a softer bunch - with the claiming price back on. Her last win came in a claiming event, but that was a front-end victory - no shot at making front here, but she does fit well against these. *Other serious players may be 1 Test Pattern (Rik Depuydt BEL), 3 Sufferin Succotash (Mark Purdon NZ), 5 Orangevale Gazette (Marcus Miller USA) & 6 Blue Star Eclipse (James MacDonald CAN).
Heat 5 – Shane Graham will drive Chief Saratoga from barrier 9 (Sunday 11:58am on SKY)
Sugar says CHIEF SARATOGA has the tough outside post, to overcome, in what looks like the most wide open WDC event of the day. This horse is another class dropper though - so he's got that going for him. I truly believe this race could go to any one of the 11. Yes - it's like that - there is no standout in this one... *Wide open here.