Top Victorian driver James Herbertson heading north for Trot Rods

A conversation at a 60th birthday party planted the seed for James Herbertson to compete in the 2023 edition of Trot Rods. 

The Victorian-based driver will be the lone interstate competitor in this year’s Trot Rods finale night on Wednesday May 24 at ‘The Triangle.’

The 23-year-old currently sits atop the Victorian state drivers premiership table, with 75 wins to his name so far this season.

But, it was a chat with Redcliffe Harness Racing Club President Bernie Ring at a party for James’ father, prominent trainer Ashleigh Herbertson, that set the wheels in motion.

“Bernie is a good family friend of ours and he came down for Dad’s 60th birthday around the end of last year,” Herbertson said.

“He mentioned it to me they were looking for someone different to come up for the Trot Rods.

“After they had Cam Hart last year, they were thinking of getting someone else and said would you be interested?

“I said ‘yep, absolutely’ – so it just went from there.”

Currently, Herbertson is based in the small town of Lexton, just outside of Ballarat.

But, he’s no stranger to the Sunshine State, with Ashleigh having connections to some well-known racing names.

“I was actually born in Queensland, we moved down when I was six months old or something like that just cause all our family is down here,” Herbertson said.

“Dad was training up there by himself and also for Stuart Hunter and Stewart Dickson, and Mum was a steward at the time – that’s how they met.

“He was training up in Queensland for quite a few years in the ‘90s and he’s got a lot of good mates up there, so it’s kind of like a second home in Queensland.

James Herbertson (right) with father Ashleigh. Photo: Horsham Harness Racing Club.

“I’ve been back up and driven a few times, I’ve driven a winner at Redcliffe for old Ray Cross, the old legend who’s down here now.

“It’s the only winner I’ve driven at Redcliffe actually!”

Herbertson will face stiff competition from reigning Redcliffe premiership driver Nathan Dawson, who currently sits ahead of Herbertson on the national drivers championship in top spot.

He said he hoped fans would again embrace the Trot Rods series, known for it’s innovative broadcast enhancements.

“It’s a great initiative really – we’re in a different state but each time it comes around we make sure we watch that Final night and try and catch the heats the few weeks before it,” Herbertson said.

“All the technology that they use, from a viewer’s point of view it’s a great insight into what we’re dealing with and all the little things that can go wrong and go right.

“It opens people’s eyes up that it’s not just jumping on and hitting the go button, there’s a lot of little things that go into it.

“It’s a really good initiative.”

A driver draft on the Monday prior to the finale night, where drivers pick which horse they will take into each race, will also go a long way in setting a fastest lap time over the 947 metre distance.

“It comes down to pure horsepower really, the best horse on the night will have the best chance of breaking that time,” Herbertson said.

“If I’m lucky enough to snag the best horse then so be it.”

The 2023 Trot Rods series resumes on Wednesday night with two heats at Redcliffe.

By Andrew Smith