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It's Walker's Turn To Inspire

Published: July 16, 2021 3:26 pm ET

Last Comment: July 16, 2021 4:35 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The OLG Ontario Women’s Driving Championship is set for this weekend (July 17 & 18) at Hanover Raceway and Dresden Raceway. The two-day event will consist of 10 races, five at each track, where the top female drivers in Ontario will compete to be crowned the champion. The Championship will also be a fundraising initiative for the Canadian Cancer Society for Cervical Cancer and Harness The Hope.

One of the drivers competing in the Driving Championship is Julie Walker. Walker grew up in harness racing and has been training horses since she was 19 years old. She got her driver’s license at the age of 30 but always had the dream to be a driver since the beginning.

“I always wanted to drive ever since I was young, and I didn’t do it until I was 30 because there were not very many women. In my twenties there was really nobody but then Riina Rekila came over. Seeing her drive made me feel like I could do it and not care what other people think. I think for a lot of women, you worry about what other people think.” Walker is a third-generation female driver as both her mother Brenda and grandmother Viola Walker sat in the sulky as well, so driving is very much in her genes.

The jump between training and driving is not for everyone and horsepeople these days tend to specialize in one over the other. For Walker, training is her true passion but has used driving as a new skill in her arsenal. “For me, it was a way to make my training skills better. To be able to go out and drive my young horses or horses I was having trouble with, it was a good asset to have.”

When asked what the future holds for driving her after the event, Walker replied “Sticking to training. I don’t have any of my own I drive right now but that’s what I really enjoy. I really enjoy having two or three of my own where you can go out with no stress and just have fun.”

Walker has always had support to make her driving dreams come true. “I grew up at Hanover, it was my home track and where my dad [Paul] did his training. So, when people saw me go for my license, they had already known my name. Hanover was actually where I got my first qualifying drive. There were a lot of people who supported me and saw me start from the bottom and work my way up.”

This event will also give some of the newer drivers a chance to go up against two individuals who have made decent driving careers already, and Walker quickly recognizes experienced competition the likes of Natasha Day and Marie-Claude Auger. “Natasha and Marie are going to give us all a good run.” With totals that top the OWDC roster, Day has made 2,455 starts and is one win shy of her 200th, while Auger has 3,789 starts and 473 wins.

An event like the Ontario Women’s Driving Championship is not only great for the competitors and the charities involved, but it also helps inspire future generations of participants. When asked what her advice to a young girl interested in driving would be, Walker replied “Just go for it! You can train miles and practice just like any other sport. You work hard and can get your rated mile perfect but until you get out there to drive that’s when the real practice starts.

“When you watch in Europe and Australia, there are just as many males as females,” Walker continued. “I think our problem over here is we don’t have enough youth programs. I know in Europe and Australia they start with ponies when they’re young. Starting when you're young, boys and girls are more equal but whereas starting in your 25-30 age range it’s more difficult.”

Walker and her seven rivals will battle in Races 1 through 5 on Saturday (July 17) an Hanover Raceway, with first post time set for 1:30 p.m. (ET). Dresden Raceway will host the finale on Sunday (July 18) with the first of five races at 1:00 p.m. (ET).

To view the entries for Saturday's card of harness racing at Hanover, click one of the following links:
Saturday Entries || TrackIT Program Pages.

To view the entries for Sunday's card of harness racing at Dresden, click one of the following links:
Sunday Entries || TrackIT Program Pages.

(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Trey Colbeck)

July 16, 2021 - 4:35 pmGo get them Julie. Maybe,

Gord Brown SAID...

Go get them Julie. Maybe, just maybe, it might be in your D.N.A

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