Catch up on the week’s harness racing action in our weekly review, thanks to Darren Clayton.
Saturday night’s action at The Creek started in a blaze of glory for the state’s leading female driver Narissa McMullen, and it continued on an upward trajectory.
After just three races, McMullen had already completed a driving treble, proving untouchable in front with her drives all leading throughout in their respective races.
The night started when Ideal World, a pacer she also trains, found the front over the 2138-metre trip soon after the field was released.
Rating the pace in front with identical sectionals through the first two quarters of 30.3 seconds, Ideal World was able to dig deep with closing quarters of 27.4 and 28 flat to hold on for a half-head margin and repel Governor Jujon and Scarlet Babe with the victory.
Race two may have been over the shorter 1660-metre distance but the race result was a carbon copy of the opening event with victory going the way of a Narissa McMullen-trained and driven gelding sired by American Ideal.
This time it was Streitkid that was able to lead all the way, with the six-year-old never in danger to claim the win in a 1.53.9 mile-rate and make it back-to-back Albion Park victories.
With Italian Lad starting the odds-on favourite in race three, Narissa’s drive, Jumping Jack Jimmy, sat on the third line of the betting market at $5.
However, it was déjà vu as Jumping Jack Jimmy was sent straight to the front, a position that he would not relinquish.
Trained by Mark Rees, the gelding was able to bounce back to winning form in stylish fashion with the 1.53.9 winning mile-rate a new career benchmark for the eight-year-old.
After three races and three wins, McMullen was dealt a dampening blow in race four when taking a pick-up drive aboard Will The Wizard.
Facing the ire of the stewards, Narissa was handed a suspension following the open class event that will see her sidelined for 14 days.
It has been a wet week in the South East of Queensland with rain falling most days in large volumes.
This has led to some muddy conditions, with the weather taking a toll on race fields with an increase in the amount of scratchings.
Despite the tough conditions, the track staff at Redcliffe and Albion Park should be complemented that the week was able to progress without the loss of a meeting.
The big wet comes just a couple of months after both tracks were resurfaced yet both have stood up superbly to the rigours of racing.
Saturday at Albion Park even saw some sizzling times regardless of the rain, highlighted by a 1.50.9 mile-rate in the free-for-all event.
Later in the evening in the Trotters event, an unofficial record may well have been broken.
Stepping away from the 2647-metre standing start point, the pressure was on in earnest with Im The Commando finding the front early before releasing to Gee Up Neddy.
The pace was frenetic with the lead time laid out in 77.8 seconds, a search of the time records failing to find a quicker opening section to a trot over this distance.
Putting the speed into context against the pacers, the Flashing Red Open handicap run over the same distance has never had a quicker lead time.
With a look at the forecast, it seems this week may well see more of the same.
George Michael is a passionate breeder and owner that continues to be heavily involved in Queensland through the deeds of Melton Stud.
On Thursday at Redcliffe, Michael was represented by three horses in the opening race of the day by Melton Killara, Melton Boomer and Our Little Skipper.
Putting his own polish on Our Little Skipper, John McMullen prepares the other two pacers, with Michael and McMullen having had a working relationship over many years.
Soon after the mobile released the field, it was Melton Killara that was able to spear across to take control with a 30.9-second opening section, driver Nathan Dawson able to control the tempo perfectly.
Backing it off with a 32.6-second quarter, there was enough in the tank to finish off the closing two splits in 30.4 and 29.7 to score a maiden-breaking win.
After being locked away three back on the inside, Taleah McMullen was able to find the space to charge home with Melton Boomer and grab second placing.
The win gave Michael a one-two finish as he owns and bred both pacers, Killara by Melton Gunna and Boomer by Boom Boom Hall.
Both can also boast Michael’s former star pacer and prolific sire Bonamax as their broodmare sire.
While Our Little Skipper was unable to finish in third to make it a trifecta for Michael, it was Studleigh Rowsy that was able to finish in third position.
That gave trainer John McMullen the first three over the line, with Chris Petroff completing the trifecta with the pick-up drive aboard Studleigh Rowsy.
Following on from her 2019/20 Queensland Broodmare of the Year Title, Washington Lass has been well represented by her sons over the weekend to strengthen her claims for back-to-back titles.
Blacksadance was the first of her progeny to step out on Saturday night, with the Chantal Turpin trained four-year-old again taking the scalps of some experienced free-for-all pacers.
Allowed to balance up early, Pete McMullen then pulled the trigger and soon after had crossed Turn It Up to take control.
However, he was only briefly in front as before the bell he had let Will The Wizard scoot by, McMullen content to take the trail.
The power was on as Will The Wizard kept the tempo strong, with Blacksadance angling into space as they swung for home and going on to claim victory by two metres and stop the clock in a sizzling mile-rate of 1.50.9.
That set a new career PB for Blacksadance with the win making it seven victories this season.
Awaywego is the two-year-old half-brother of Blacksadance, and he took to the track for race six, pouncing on the lead soon after the start from barrier three.
With an opening half of 58.2 seconds, he was unable to repel the challenge of Leap To Fame over the closing stages, holding on for second place.
The last race of the night saw the third of Washington Lass’ foals take the track and once again Pete McMullen had him in front soon after the start.
Big Wheels was having his third run back from a spell with a return to the mile playing firmly in his favour after both return runs had been over the middle-distance.
After a controlled opening 800 metres, McMullen allowed Big Wheels to lengthen and the pair cruised home to victory in a new PB mile-rate of 1.53.9.
The win by Big Wheels took his career tally to seven wins, half the number of his ‘big bro’ Blacksadance who took his tally to fourteen with Saturday’s victory.
Despite the difference in number of victories, there is just $259 in career earnings splitting the pair.
It is a full week on the Queensland calendar with seven straight days of harness racing action.
The week kicks off with a Monday afternoon fixture from Albion Park, with The Creek also hosting their regular meetings on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.
Redcliffe chimes in mid-week with the regular Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon fixtures.
The seventh meeting will come from Marburg with the Marburg Pacing Association hosting a Sunday afternoon card.
This meeting will see a return to the popular Marburg to Albion Park heats with a $10,400 Final for the NR 48 to 51 performers to be decided on December 11 at The Creek.
This week’s increased stakes event will be for the mares, with the qualifying pace over 1660 metres offering $20,000 prizemoney.