By Duane Ranger
Ever wondered how the hopple shorteners, ear plugs, the bells boots, the boring pole, or even the spreaders work on a standardbred?
Now, there’s a new age of racing journalist who can explain all that – and some – while interviewing drivers and informing punters just prior to race-start and after the race.
Sky Racing presenter, driver and trainer Brittany Graham is one such journalist.
The 23-year-old, who has also reined almost 250 career winners ($1.1m), is currently competing in the 2019 BOTRA Queensland Young Drivers Championship. The Fernvale native, who now lives in Sydney has won it before.
The last two rounds of the 2019 edition of the Championship will be staged at Albion Park tonight (Saturday).
“This is my last year so I would love to bow out a two-time winner. I love to win. That’s why I train and drive horses. You can’t beat that winning feeling," she said.
“I’m also honoured that I can portray winning feelings from others when they are victorious. I have been blessed and I owe a lot to Kevin Seymour who sent me to the Sky Racing Academy Course in 2016 – and my career developed from there."
Graham is placed in seventh equal position after four heats of the six-heat Championship. All drivers have to be licenced to Racing Queensland.
“I never changed my licence over when I relocated south. I’m still very much a proud Queenslander,” she said.
Graham finished second behind the Ron Sallis trained Major Currency, and then fifth behind the John Cremin trained Hughies Sister in the first round of heats at Albion Park Thursday.
Going into last night’s second round of heats at Redcliffe, Graham was nicely poised in third place with 18 points.
She then finished ninth and sixth behind the Murray Thomas trained duo of Mybella Rose and Grinydontcha.
“I actually thought my best drives were on the first night, but with a bit of luck, and if things can still go my way I can still win a heat," Graham said.
“My last two drives are for Mark Dux and Doug Lee, who could both win if things go there way. Offthetopofmyhead and Illawong Dreamtime have drawn six and five respectively, so it’s not going to be an easy assignment."
She insisted persuing a media career was never part of her plan when she left West Moreton Anglican College.
“I was just happy to work for Dad and do some study at the same time. Journalism never entered my head until Kevin put my name forward for the Racing Academy," she said.
“A month or so after I was at the Queensland Winter carnival and Greg Hayes asked me if I wanted to do ‘the late mail’.
“Next thing I knew I was doing ‘the late mail’ one race, driving the next, then ‘the late mail’ again and then driving,” Graham said.
Then in 2016, Graham, who boasts a Business Management Degree in Marketing, was offered some casual work with Sky racing and covered the New Zealand Cup in Christchurch that year.
“I also train Franco Totem who won for me at big odds at Menangle last start. I actually train him at Menangle alongside Anthony Butt and Sonya Smith, so I’m in very good company,” Graham said.
She said she worked the horses before her six or so hours at Sky Racing.
When she was 18 Graham became the youngest trainer in Interdominion history to have a starter line up in the Series.
“Sign To Inverell actually finished second in one of his heats at that Series at Albion Park back in 2014. Dad (Darrel) taught me a lot about harness racing," Graham said.
“I love being a horsewoman and still being able to drive and train, and yet be a journalist at the same time. The latter was never on my radar, but I absolutely love it,” Graham said.
Graham then spoke in detail about her two Championship drives tonight:
Race 4: The Mark Dux trained OFFTHETOPOFMYHEAD (6): “This is the first time I will have driven him, but he won well last start. I’ve actually been keeping close eyes on him the last couple of weeks with my form work with Sky Racing. I’ve noticed that he’s the sort of horse who can swoop on them late. It’s not going to be easy from the wide draw though, but in saying that he is still capable of figuring if luck goes his way.”
Race 6: The Doug Lee trained ILLAWONGDREAMTIME (5): “I’ve driven this horse quite a bit before. He’s a lovely old horse has real gate speed. He can be so quick out of the arm, but I will talk to Doug first and see how he wants me to drive him. Again the draw is not ideal but he is better than his last-start ninth suggests. Don’t discount him.
Points after four of the six heats in the 2019 Botra Queensland Young Drivers Championship are:
Isobel Ross 46, Taleah McMullen 30, Hayden Barnes 28, Matt Elkins 27, Brendan Barnes and Jonah Hutchinson 25, Justin Elkins and Brittany Graham 24, Ben Woodsford 19, Danni-elle McMullen 11.