The Australian driving ranks produced some high achievers in the 2017/18 season. Drivers like Todd McCarthy (NSW), Danielle Hill (SA), Nathan Dawson (QLD), and Shannon Suvaljko (WA) all had stellar seasons, while Chris Alford (VIC) changed the course of trotting history.
While the “big guns” were strutting their stuff, a handful of promising concession drivers were flying under the radar.
One notable improver was nineteen year old Cameron Hart, who posted a healthy 71 wins and 111 placings statewide, to grab third place on the NSW junior ladder, behind Chris Geary and Brad Elder. Cam spent almost ten months of the season working full time for trainer Shane Sanderson, who came with a flourish of winners in the last three months.
Harness racing needs young people like Cameron Hart, who’s besotted with the standardbred horse, and seeks a long term future in the industry.
Cam is a native of Junee, one of Australia’s staunchest trotting towns, and home to some of the sport’s best horses and horsemen. His mother Michelle is a niece of the late Allan Harpley, who took Welcome Advice to an Interdominion grand final win in 1972. Well known trainer/driver Bruce Harpley, is Cameron’s second cousin.
Like Chris Geary, young Hart cut his teeth on the mini trotters. “I was fortunate to have a cracker of a pony called Energizer who won all the majors, and gave me my first look at Menangle”, said Cameron this week.” The first time I took Energizer onto that big, sweeping track I knew I’d be back one day driving the “big ones”.
At age fifteen, the youngster went to work for his Mum’s brother Trevor White, a highly regarded Riverina horseman who took his nephew under his wing. “I haven’t seen a better all-round horseman than Uncle Trev”, said Cam. “He taught me all the fundamentals of the training and management of the harness horse, and I owe him a great deal”.
Cameron couldn’t wait for his first drive to materialise, and that was supplied by Trevor at an Albury meeting on April 2nd, 2016.The horse was Ideal Investment, and the young driver showed great composure from a second row draw, to get the gelding home. Just to prove the Albury win was no fluke, Cam went to Canberra two days later to win on Ravishing Girl for the Sloys Co. and trainer Noel Morris.
Over the next twelve months Cameron Hart seemed to improve with every drive, and posted sixty wins for several trainers including Shane Hillier who had a big team at the time, and used the young driver frequently.
Cam was already getting itchy feet. He was keen to get to the big smoke, and look for a position with one of the more prominent stables. He enlisted the aid of his elder sister Ashley, who was already working for Craig Cross at the McCarthy establishment.
Ashley spoke to Shane Sanderson who didn’t need help at the time, but only a few weeks later, the situation changed. “I called Cam and offered him the job, and he broke all records getting to Menangle”, recalled Shane. “It’s the best thing to happen to the stable. He’s very good with the horses, and gets to know them backwards”.
With the Sanderson stable on a roll recently, and the support of several outside stables, Cameron has made quite a statement in his first ten months. He and Shane have enjoyed a tremendous run with Loorrim Creek (6 wins), Bazzas Art (6), Expressionist (4), Mind The Wire (4), Change Of Mind (5), I’m The Smoocha (1).
One of his important outside drives was supplied by Michael Formosa, who entrusted the lad with the drive on his all-time favourite Ultimate Art. Cam won two races at Menangle on the veteran pacer, and was thrilled beyond belief when Michael let him drive the horse in the Gr1 Queensland Pacing Championship, for a fourth to Let It Ride.
The young horseman has revelled in the opportunity to drive against top reinsmen on a regular basis in Sydney. He has special admiration for Luke McCarthy and Blake Fitzpatrick, but is constantly observing the strong points of any accomplished driver he sees at the track or on Sky Racing.
Cam has three sporting interests which occupy his spare time. He loves a game of golf, and says his swing is slowly improving, while he enjoys touch football and indoor cricket. Two of his fellow competitors at the indoor cricket are Jim Douglass and Gavin Fitzpatrick.
But his deepest passion is reserved for the standardbred horse, and the sport in which it functions. One hundred and forty winners at just nineteen years of age, is a flying start to the career he’s been dreaming about since Uncle Trevor first “cut him loose” on the old Junee track.