Friday night's Maitland harness racing meeting will be a huge night for Hunter indigenous drivers Damien Smith and Danny Gibson.
Maitland’s Smith and Gibson, from Cessnock, are taking part in the two heats at the Maitland Showground of annual Indigenous Drivers Series.
Maitland Harness Racing Club secretary Wayne Smith said the club was extremely privileged to host heat in the series which is growing every year in stature, popularity and participation.
“This is a really great development in harness racing and gives the talented indigenous drivers out there a boost in their careers and hopefully improve indigenous participation in all facets of the industry from ownership to training,” he said.
“We’re hoping for a big crowd to get along on Friday night to cheer on Damien and Danny as well as all the drivers involved.
“We’re obviously very excited for our two drivers, Danny has won a number of races in previous series and Damien is from Maitland and we’re hoping he has a big future.”
The heats of the Indigenous Race Series are the two main events on the six-race card.
“Drivers are allocated a horse on the night and the successful drivers will progress to the final of the series the JC Caffyn Plate at Menangle on October 28,” Smith said.
“They will drive different horses at the final, once again it’s on an allocation basis for the drivers rather than the horse and driver going through.”
Harness Racing NSW will announce the winners of new awards for the indigenous driver and trainer of the year at it's awards night on October 27.
Friday night’s meeting is the first of 10 this season hosted by the club at the Maitland Showground.
“Fields for Friday night are good, especially considering there are five meetings in seven days in the Hunter,” Smith said.
“There will be a strong contingent of local trainers and drivers on Friday night which is always great for the local industry and of course local interest.
“We’ve got some great entertainment for the kids, the mini trots are back, so it will be a great family night.”
The highlight of the 10 Maitland meetings will once again be the annual Inter City Pace. Heats of the time-honoured race will be held on Saturday, December 22, and the final will be on Saturday, December 29.
The meetings are scattered from now until June with meetings on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
The drivers for Indigenous Drivers Series heats at Maitland on Friday night are: Danny Scanlon, Danny Gibson, Josh Aiken, Hayden Green, Jack Wade, David Caffyn, Courtney Sutherland, Bruce O’Brien, Matt Coffee and Damien Smith.