Teenager Blake Hughes qualified two runners for this Saturday night's Hunter Regional Championships Final, but he won't be in the group 1 decider at Newcastle Paceway unless he gains dispensation from Harness Racing NSW.
Hughes, who has driven seven winners in the past two days, steered Kanye Crusader and Western Heir for boss Clayton Harmey into the $100,000 final with heat wins over the past two weeks at Newcastle.
However, the 17-year-old from Cessnock has not gained his A-grade licence, which he needs to drive in a group 1 race.
Hughes has met requirements for an A-grade licence but his poor record with suspensions, which includes four stints this season, has delayed his promotion.
Harmey said he would ask authorities to allow Hughes to drive in the final, especially given the exceptional circumstances of the series.
The Regional Championships, held separately in the Hunter, Western, Riverina and Metro zones, has replaced the inaugural Million Dollar Pace. The COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted HRNSW to restrict participants to racing in their region only, led to the change. However, the switch has left regional trainers with a limited pool of A-grade drivers.
Harmey said Newcastle and Hunter Valley premiership winner Jack Callaghan would drive one of his team but he was unsure of his second reinsman for the final.
The Nulkaba trainer said he would also seek approval for Josh Osborn to drive if Hughes was denied. Osborn did not regain his A-grade licence when he returned from a disqualification.
Hughes was not expecting to drive in the final but he was grateful for the chances he has had over the past 12 months since joining Harmey's team.
He has driven 70 winners this season despite missing three months because of suspensions.
He bagged a double for Harmey at Newcastle on Monday with Corbaux and The Band's Playing. He matched his best haul of five winners for a meeting at Tamworth on Sunday night when he saluted on Azur Express, Gold Reactor and Choisir Damour for Harmey, and Are You With Me and I'm So Better for Anthony Missen.
"It would have been good to have a drive in a group 1 but I'm getting a lot of good opportunities at my age," Hughes said.
"And I still get to drive in the consolation, so that's still pretty good."
Hughes could drive Yesnomaybeso and Straddie in the Regional Championships consolation races on Saturday night.
As for which horse he would drive in the main event if he had the chance, Hughes said: "I don't know. Western Heir's was a good run but so was Kanye Crusader's. It would just depend on where they drew."
Harmey said Hughes had done a good job for his stable, which had delivered more winners when he was available to drive.
"I will put a case forward and see if there is any leeway, or if they would consider it," Harmey said of getting Hughes approved for the final. "If it's a no, then I'll push to get Josh's A-grade licence through."
Also Monday, the Ray Harkness-trained Beersinmypocket made an impressive debut at Newcastle, winning by 29 metres.