The Prince Of The Paceway

19 July 2018 | Chris Barsby
Luke McCarthy and Carlas Pixel team up again in the Gr.1 UBET Blacks A Fake at Albion Park this Saturday night

Luke McCarthy and Carlas Pixel team up again in the Gr.1 UBET Blacks A Fake at Albion Park this Saturday night Photo by Dan Costello

Talent comes in many forms.

And in many shapes and sizes.

But for Luke McCarthy, as a kid growing up in Bathurst, all he wanted to do was horses, or harness racing to be more precise.

He would shadow his father John with the family horses, always keen and eager to learn as much as possible.

 The young country kid dreamed big.

And when the family packed up their home and headed to the ‘big smoke’ of Brisbane, young McCarthy put plans in place.

As a fresh-faced teenager, he captured much of the public imagination with his precocious talent and his unparalleled skillset in the sulky which netted many features in a short space of time.

Owners and trainers alike were flocking to utilize his services on race day.

It was all but impossible not to fall for him, so splendid were his gifts, so endearing his personality.

From a very young age, he was destined to become a big time harness racing driver.

And he can drive fast.

Never fussed on achieving high academic grades, he watched time tick by at school until the bell sounded so he could get home and grade his equine students on the family property.

He would mark his calendar and counted the days down until the next set of school holidays so he could spend time with the likes of the famous Turnbull clan at The Lagoon and the legendary Brian Hancock.

His thirst for knowledge was unwavering.

He would ply his trade at every available opportunity, always looking to hone his style after watching as much vision as possible.

His first drive resulted in success, steering Castle Belles to victory at Redcliffe on March 5, 1999.

Now boasting over 2200 lifetime victories, McCarthy has firmly established himself as one of the best big race drivers in the sport.

His winning drive behind Muscle Hill (widely regarded as the greatest trotter of all-time) in the 2009 World Trotting Derby at DuQuoin, Illinois is a clear illustration of his talent.

He has 55 Gr.1 victories while 12 have come via the Grand Circuit.

And 8 of those Grand Circuit triumphs have come at his favourite track – Albion Park.

This weekend, he can add to that tally.

McCarthy will partner star mare Carlas Pixel in the Gr.1 $200,540 UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship.

The Dean Braun trained mare must overcome gate 13, the outside of the second-line in the 2680m mobile feature.

Gambling giant UBET has listed Carlas Pixel as a $10 chance.

“We’ve got a good shot; I know the draw looks bad on paper but I still think she’s good enough to win, she felt so strong last week and should improve a little further with the extra week up here. We just need a strong first lap which will bring us right into it.” McCarthy said.

Carlas Pixel thrashed her rivals in her Queensland debut when brilliantly winning the Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes against her own sex last Saturday night.

History is against the fairer sex in this event, first staged in 1969, only one mare has proven successful, champion mare Tailamade Lombo scored back in 2000.

McCarthy has guided Cobbity Classic (2004) to victory followed by Slipnslide (2005/06), Mr Feelgood (2010/11), Washakie (2012), Ideal Scott (2013) and For A Reason (2014) in the state's biggest event.

During a decade long reign, only Blacks A Fake (2008/09) stopped a McCarthy family clean sweep of the Sunshine State feature.

Now based in Sydney near Menangle, McCarthy has only scored one Grand Circuit victory in his home state, he took the winning drive behind Washakie in the 2010 Treuer Memorial when defeating Blacks A Fake while other Grand Circuit triumphs have come via Melbourne with For A Reason and Mr Feelgood (Victoria Cup) while Bling It On (Hunter Cup - 2017) is his most recent winner.

And while he craves more success on the Grand Circuit, he’s chuffed with what he’s got and where he’s got it.

“Make no mistake, I love driving at Albion Park and enjoy getting back there as often as I can. I suppose because we had so much family success at the track and because it provided a perfect spring board to where we are now, it makes it a special place and we all have so many great memories.

“While I’ve been lucky enough to drive on so many great tracks around the world, I still rate Albion Park as my favourite venue to drive at. All of us (Luke, Andy & Toddy) boys kicked off our careers here in Brisbane and we’ve all won big races here too along with dad.

“I don’t take these victories for granted, it’s hard to get horses good enough for this grade let alone winning them. I can vividly remember all of my big race triumphs at this track and hopefully there’s another one just around the corner.”

Judging by his recent efforts over the past three Saturday nights, his form is as good as ever.

From 23 drives, McCarthy has landed 12 winners including his quintet last weekend.

Interestingly, with all the glory he has achieved in Queensland, McCarthy has never won a state drivers premiership.

However, he has dominated the metropolitan drivers’ premiership.

McCarthy secured the Albion Park premierships during the 2001/02, 02/03, 03/04, 04/05, 05/06, 06/07 and 2009/10 seasons.

His strike rate this season currently sits at 1 win in every 4 drives.

His biggest season came via the 2006/07 term when he landed 164 winners.

And only once during the past 17 seasons has McCarthy missed the century mark (2008/09 – 90 wins).

Another feature McCarthy is chasing this weekend is the Gr.2 $75,540 AQWA Constructions Queensland Derby.

He will partner boom pacer and race favourite Duplicated who starts from the coveted inside draw.

Like Carlas Pixel, Duplicated hails from the stables of Braun.

“This is a very serious prospect; he surprised me in a very good way last week when taking my first drive behind him. He was sharp and will improve plenty from the run; he’s got great stamina and a very high cruising pace.

“I’m really looking forward to driving him again, he’ll be spot on and he’s the horse to beat. Dean’s a great trainer and a pleasure to drive for; I know he’s excited about the weekend too.”

Duplicated is rated as a $1.40 elect with UBET.

The McCarthy/Braun combination struck last year when they combined to win the Queensland Oaks with Shartin, now considered the best pacing mare in the world following a spate of big race victories in North America and Canada this year.

Luke McCarthy Rates His Top 5:

Muscle Hill ("and by a fair margin")

Be Good Johnny

Mr Feelgood


Bling It On

Special mentions – Famous Forever and All Speed Hanover.

McCarthy will turn 36 in November this year.