Queensland harness racing wrap - August 30

30 August 2021 | Darren Clayton
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Catch up on the week’s harness racing action in our weekly review, thanks to Darren Clayton.

 

THE GOOD

Pete McMullen currently leads the Australian Drivers title with 177 wins for the season and with four months of the season to run, is on track to become Queensland’s first winner of the National title since Shane Graham in 2014/15.

Nathan Dawson - cousin of Pete - is currently running second and pulled some ground back in the title race over the past week as he sets out to chase down Leader Peter.

Both drivers had a successful seven days and landed multiple wins on multiple occasions, with Dawson landing a dozen winners for the week, headlined by a Saturday night treble with Our Uncle Sam, Our Bondi Beach and Captain Crusader.

McMullen was able to visit the winner’s enclosure seven times for the week and was also successful on Saturday night with a winning double courtesy of Doug and Chiasso in the last two races of the night.

While Dawson was able to claim at least one winner at every meeting for the week, McMullen went home empty handed on Tuesday and Friday but had doubles on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The cousins were also able to quinella three races for the week, with Nathan holding sway two-one, including in the Saturday night Open Class event where Our Uncle Sam (Dawson) edged out Will The Wizard (McMullen) by the barest possible margin.

When Shane Graham secured National honours, it ended a drought for the Sunshine State that dated back to the 1980/81 season when a Queensland reinsman last sat atop the National tally with Kevin Thomas claiming that season’s title.

If McMullen and Dawson can continue their winning run and stay clear of the pack for the one-two finish, it will be the first time since the 1977/78 season that Queensland has provided the quinella result.

That year the late Bill Dixon was the country’s leading reinsman with Jim O’Sullivan finishing in second position.

The battle for top spot will be an intriguing contest over the next four months and a momentous occasion for all, none more than their Grandmother Beryl Dawson, should the pair of cousins claim a one-two finish on the national stage.

 

THE BAD

With a weekend off from her regular Sky Racing duties, Brittany Graham was able to don the silks for a rare Saturday night appearance in the sulky at The Creek on Saturday night.

Taking just the two drives for the night, Brittany went within a head margin of making it a perfect night.

The first of her two drives was aboard Blue Moon Rising, a gelding that Brittany had partnered to success on three previous occasions.

Settling near the rear of the eight-horse field after easing out of the mobile from gate four, Graham drove a patient race, making a move just before the home bend.

The widest runner as they straightened for the run to the judge, Blue Moon Rising responded and charged down the outside to arrive for a half-neck victory.

Il Pirata would be the second of Brittany’s two drives, the ten-year-old square gaiter looking to break a winless drought that extends back to 2020 when successful in the Queensland Trotters Cup.

With some improved performances in recent starts, Il Pirata had managed to place in three of his previous five attempts.

Standing quietly at the start of the 2647-metre stand start event, Aladdin Sane drawn to the outside of Il Pirata was fizzed up and reared as the field was released.

Swinging sideways, Aladdin Sane made heavy contact with the sulky of Il Pirata and somehow despite the force of the impact, Graham was able to stay in the bike.

Quickly back into stride, Il Pirata trotted cleanly throughout and wide off the track made one closing challenge to finish just a head from the winner, Doug.

Under the circumstances of what transpired at the start, it was a superb effort.

Just a head margin from landing what would have been her third metro double, the most recent of those last year when piloting her favourite Big Bang Leonard along with Dream To Share to success.

That second Albion Park victory is proving elusive to an unlucky Il Pirata.

 

THE MILESTONE

Five-year-old mare Snuggles Banyula was having her first start for the Grant Dixon stable at the Albion Park meeting on Tuesday August 24, with Grant also having his first drive behind the mare.

It turned out to be a momentous first start in the black and white checked silks, as Grant produced the mare with a well-timed run to claim a one-metre victory.

The win was the 100th driving success this season for Dixon, becoming the fifth Queensland driver to pass the century for the term.

Finishing the week on 104 wins since January 1, Dixon sits one win in arrears of fourth placed Angus Garrard and five wins adrift of the current third-placed Shane Graham.

Reaching the triple figures kept up the amazing record for Dixon who has managed to drive at least a century of winners every season since the turn of the century.

The 1994/95 season was the first season that Grant reached triple figures when driving home 108 winners for the term and overall, he has now driven 100 winners in a season on 23 occasions and passed 200 in a season 10 times.

The 2009/2010 season was the career high where Grant was able to steer home 242 winners, with his first 100 wins in that season taking just four months and five days to reach.

The latest breakthrough of the 100-win benchmark makes it 22 consecutive seasons that Dixon has reached triple figures.

Currently sitting on 4,874 career wins, at his current strike rate of winners, the 5,000-win barrier looks set to be eclipsed next season.

 

THE WILDCARD

Heading into the Redcliffe meeting on Thursday August 26, Ben Crosby had previously prepared two winners since taking out his trainer’s licence.

It shaped as a long day for Crosby with horses in the first and last races of the 10-race programme.

Yet it turned out to be the perfect day as he was able to double his win tally in the one day by bookending the meeting.

Two-year-old Captain Shuffles contested race one, with the son of super-sire Captaintreacherous stepping out for just the third time under race conditions.

Sent around the field in the early stages from his second line gate, driver Nathan Dawson was content to sit outside the leader and allow Captain Shuffles to settle into his rhythm.

Putting the leader away a long way from home, it was an armchair drive for Dawson as they pulled clear to record an expanding 35-metre winning margin with the easy victory.

The win was made even more lucrative with Crosby also owning the gelding, securing the $12,000 QBRED first win bonus for the victory.

The QBRED scheme has been good to the Crosby family, with Captain Shuffles’ dam, Morethanmeetstheye winning the 2014 QBRED Breeders Classic Final for three-year-old fillies.

With just under six hours between the first and last race, Major Slip Up would have to overcome the second line to claim victory and the five-year-old was able to do exactly that.

Proving a source of frustration in recent starts, the gelding was on his best behaviour and like his stablemate was sent around to sit outside the leader in the early stages.

Driven by Mathew Neilson, the margin was much tighter than in the first race but Major Slip Up was able to fight hard to claim victory by a head margin.

The win also secured the QBRED second-win bonus for Major Slip Up who had previously scored all his four career victories at Marburg.

With both winners bred by Bill Crosby and owned and trained by Ben Crosby, the long wait from race one until race 10 certainly proved worthwhile.

 

THIS WEEK

The week commences with another Monday night fixture from Redcliffe that will also see racing held on 13 of the next 14 days in the South East.

Racing will be from Redcliffe with nine races scheduled for Monday evening, 10 for Wednesday evening and the third meeting from the Peninsula Paceway on Thursday afternoon.

Albion Park will play host to a 10-race card on Tuesday afternoon along with meetings on Friday night and the Saturday night metropolitan fixture.

Marburg steps into the fold on Sunday with a Fathers’ Day meeting.

The highlight race will be the first two heats of the Family Challenge, with a further two heats to be held at their meeting on September 12.

The drivers are invited by Marburg Pacing Association with two invited drivers from four families with a member of two generations of each family to compete.

Competing drivers in the first week are likely to be Darrel and Brittany Graham, Greg and Matt Elkins, Gavin and Matt Crone, and Alistair and Brendan Barnes.

 

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