HARNESS RACING may not be a sport many people would consider to have a junior presence.
But it has a “mini-trots” discipline competed in by hundreds of young drivers around the state and many more across Australia.
The grand final for mini-trots is considered racing on Inter Dominion night, and three Hunter girls had that opportunity on Saturday at Melton in Victoria.
There were three divisions: midgets, shetlands and ponies.
Hunter driver Grace Panella won the ponies race on Velvets Little Star with Chloe Formosa on Lumber Jack Willie second.
Both ponies are owned by Todd McMillan of Salt Ash, whose seven-year-old daughter Mia also raced on the night. She drove Midnight Express – a former Inter Dominion mini-trots champion – and finished fifth in the midget division.
Mia’s family made the 14-hour drive south last week for the race, taking the three ponies from their Salt Ash property.
“She can only drive one of them at the moment because the others are a bit strong for her,” Mia’s dad Todd said.
Mia has been driving for about two years and was the youngest competitor on the night by about six years
She even wore the silk colours of champion thoroughbred race horse Winx.
In year two at Tanibla Bay Public School, Mia spends most afternoons looking after her ponies at home.
“She’s really into it, she’s dedicated, she does pony work six days a week,” Todd said. “At the ripe old age of seven, it’s a pretty busy life.”
Mini-trots run between races at Newcastle Harness Racing Club Saturday meets throughout the year.
Bronze medal for Dalibozek in NZ
Aussie Youth Sevens player Liam Dalibozek has collected a bronze medal at the World Schools Sevens tournament in New Zealand.
Held in Auckland, the tournament brought together some of the South Pacific’s best rugby talent.
Teams representing Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Japan and more played across the boys and girls divisions.
Australia thrashed Vanuatu 52-0 in their first game, before defeating Tonga Barbarians 17-3 and NZ Nuie 36-6. They were beaten 15-12 in their semi-final against a NZ-Fijian side and then finished with a 26-19 third-place playoff win over NZ Maori.
Dalibozek was a late call up to the Australian side after initially being named as a shadow player.
A week before the Auckland tournament he had won a gold medal playing for NSW at the Australian national championships in Brisbane.
The 17-year-old, from Weston, plays locally for Wanderers RFC.