Leading Hunter Valley trainer Clayton Harmey hopes the Regional Championships format will continue after the COVID-19 pandemic and believes it would boost Australian breeding and help participants at the grassroots level.
Harmey has qualified Kanye Crusader and Western Heir for the group 1 Hunter final at Newcastle Paceway this Saturday night.
The championships, offering heats and $100,000 finals in the Hunter, Western, Riverina and Metro zones, replaced the Million Dollar Pace series after the regionalisation of NSW harness racing because of the pandemic.
The series, restricted to Australian-bred pacers, has opened the door to a group 1 start for many hobby trainers who would have come up against pacers from major stables early in the Million Dollar Pace format.
The change has helped trainers such as Chris Bourke (Que Sera) and Polly Downing (Elsie Gem) score a breakthrough group 1 shot. Their pacers qualified on Friday night, joining Harmey's pair, Ultra Bliss (Neil Thompson), Lightning Bob (Jenny Sellers), Emm Aye Dee (Dean Chapple), Ashark (Melanie Elder), Hazelnuts (Adam Ruggari) and Master Catch (Lisa McDonald) in the final.
Harmey believed the regional series also encouraged more investment in Australian pacing.
"It would be better, and I think it would encourage more owners to do more," Harmey said of the regional series remaining.
"If they know this race is coming up every year, in regions instead of a Million Dollar Pace, I think it would be a strong race and people would buy more and buy more Australian-bred horses.
"I've got no doubt every trainer outside Sydney would say that they wished they had it in their own regions."
Newcastle hosts an eight-race card on Monday.