Young Western Australian reinsman Michael Grantham may have finished down the track in the recent Australasian Young Drivers Championship held in Queensland, but he loved the experience.
The AYDC started at Redcliffe on the Wednesday night for the first round of heats before moving to Albion Park on the Friday and Saturday nights where 10 leading young drivers from Australia and New Zealand competed for the title of being Australasia’s top driver.
“It was a fantastic trip,” the 22-year-old Grantham said.
“I knew a few of the boys and had heard the names of some of the other drivers, but at the end of the week I walked out of there with lifetime friends.
“We had a ball. When we weren’t driving we partied every other day.
“It was a great experience and I’d jump at the chance to do it again.”
Queensland’s Narissa McMullen proved there’s no place like home.
She dominated the series after booting home a winning treble on the opening night of the AYDC at Redcliffe. Two of those victories were in the first two heats of the series.
The 23-year-old local has been one of the leading drivers at Redcliffe in the past 12 months, scoring 57 wins from 417 drives.
“It was a really great feeling to win the first two,” she said.
“I’d just like to thank the trainers for putting horses in the race. Both of my first two drives were nice horses so that made it easy.
“It’s probably easier driving horses you know. But, your job as a driver is to get on horses you’ve never driven before … you work it out pretty quickly.”
McMullen couldn’t find a winner on the Friday night at Albion Park, but she certainly made up for it on the Saturday night when she again landed a treble at Brisbane’s metropolitan track.
Two of those victories were in heats of the AYDC series and she comfortably won the title from New Zealand’s Dylan Ferguson and Victoria’s Jason Lee.
Despite finishing at the back of the pack, Grantham said the experience of driving on different tracks, on horses he hadn’t sat behind before and against the best young talent in Australia and New Zealand was a great learning curve.
“Narissa thoroughly deserved winning the title,” he said.
“I’m not taking anything away from her ... she’s a great driver, but that local knowledge of the tracks served her well during the series.
“We had a lot of free time to socialise when we weren’t competing against each other.
“It was really interesting to hear the various ways they train horses in New Zealand and even in Melbourne and Sydney.
“Even just the different terminology they use ... it was a great week.”
Grantham’s father Mark was a very successful jockey before weight issues forced him out of the saddle.
Michael also rode racehorses for 16 months and landed 99 winners in the saddle before he too became too heavy to continue as a jockey.
He now combines race driving, working with his dad in their horse transport business and driving fast work for his uncle and successful trainer Michael Brennan.
“I’ve been driving for about three years now and have outdriven my concession,” Grantham said.
“I’m really enjoying the driving and I’ve been lucky enough to get behind some good ones.
“Mouse (Brennan) has been really good for my career. He’s put me behind some smart horses.”
And what’s been the best pacer Grantham has driven?
“Well I’ve driven Im Victorious in trackwork,” he said.
“The Bucket List is probably my favourite, but Mista Shark looks like he could be something special.”