Queensland Harness Racing Wrap - January 10

10 January 2022 | 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

Queensland to North America to Queensland to New South Wales and back to Queensland once again.

Internationally experienced horseman Darren McCall has resettled back in Queensland, bolstering the states training ranks with the move.

McCall claimed his first win since re-establishing his stable back in the Sunshine State when Warrawee Flyer claimed a maiden-breaking win at Albion Park on Friday.

Having her first Albion Park start on Christmas Eve as a two-year-old, it was a pleasing Queensland debut from the filly when finishing runner-up to Blackjack Shaz.

Unplaced on New Years Eve, the now three-year-old lined up in the APG maiden pace as the short-priced favourite to claim victory.

Given time to balance up, she was sent forward and by the time the field worked into the home straight on the first occasion, McCall had sent the filly to the front.

Once in control, she was never in danger, cruising home for a comfortable victory with eight-and-a-half metres to spare over the second placed runner.

Purchased out of the 2020 APG Sydney Sale, Warrawee Flyer was a modest $9,000 purchase for a large group of owners that includes The Stable.

A Canadian-based operation, The Stable is a fractional ownership group that attempts to bring new and existing owners together in the thrill of horse ownership.

Breaking the shackles of the first win after being based back in Queensland, McCall wasted little time in registering win number two, claiming a training double for the day.

Four-year-old mare Girl From Oz was an impressive winner in the last race of the day, sent to the front from barrier six by driver Mathew Neilson.

It was a demolition by the Heston Blue Chip mare, pulling away from her rivals to record a winning margin of over 16 metres in claiming her sixth career victory.

Another part owned by The Stable, the mare has proven to be an astute purchase as an $18,000 buy from the 2019 APG sale, with Friday’s win taking her earnings past $110,000.

Sent out as a $16 chance, the market underestimated the mare, the win coming just two starts after she claimed a feature victory at Newcastle.

That victory was her last start in New South Wales before joining the McCall relocation, claiming the NSW Breeders Challenge Regional Final at Group 3 level.

With that first return win out of the way, McCall can now get to business with the team he has set up at Tamborine on the property of prominent owner Jeroen Nieuwenburg.

Last time McCall called Queensland home, he took on Bettor Bet Black who would go on to claim 27 race victories and over $400,000 in stakes under his care.

Is there another Bettor Bet Black on the Queensland horizon?

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THE BAD

For the majority of the COVID-19 pandemic, racing has been able to continue, thanks to the wonderful work of the participants and the race day staff who have met the requirements asked of them.

Queensland has been particularly lucky throughout 2020 and 2021, with limited exposure to the virus across the state.

Unfortunately, the latest outbreak in the Sunshine State has been rapid and widespread and despite the best efforts of those involved, several local participants have been struck down by the virus.

Following the set protocols and government advice, the Jack Butler stable was the most heavily affected, with ten horses having to be withdrawn from Saturday night’s Albion Park meeting.

Deus Ex had opened as favourite to take another step up in his progressive career, despite landing barrier six in the Free For All event, while Misterfreeze and Jeradas Delight also had to be withdrawn from this same race.

Obi One has been a model of consistency since arriving in Queensland and had drawn favourably in gate two for the increased stakes qualifier, however he was unable to take his place in the field.

Gemma Hewitt looked to have Voodoo Lou in the right race for a breakthrough second up from a spell, but the mare was another to be scratched.

On paper, Brendan Barnes looked to have a strong book on Saturday night with several serious winning chances that evaporated with the withdrawals.

Matt Elkins and partner Narissa McMullen have also been impacted, however have been in the fortunate position that some of their horses have been able to continue racing.

Ideal World tackled the Free For All on Saturday night with Pete McMullen stepping in to take the drive aboard the nine-year-old trained by his sister.

It was another family member - this time sister Taleah - that was able to step in and take the reins for Narissa aboard Le Tissier, making full use of the opportunity to claim an all the way victory.

Elkins’ father Greg and brother Justin have also been forced to sideline in the past week owing to the virus, forced to scratch some runners and wait for the mandatory time to pass.

It is concerning times with the number of COVID cases exploding in recent weeks, however one can only hope that the peak has arrived and wish those affected all the best for a full and straightforward recovery.

 

THE MILESTONE

Boosting the Queensland concession drivers ranks, Luke Whittaker has wasted little time in securing his first race victory.

Relocating to the Sunshine State from New Zealand, Whittaker has joined forces with the Darrel Graham stable that is in the process of shifting from Fernvale to Biddaddaba in the Gold Coast Hinterland.

Having just his second drive of the season, Whittaker drove a well-judged race aboard the Shannon Price-trained Kensington Bill, to guide the pacer to his first victory in seven months.

With some eye-catching runs in recent weeks, Kensington Bill had drawn inside the second line and was sent out as the punters elect from the favourable draw.

Sitting patiently in the trail, Whittaker angled the six-year-old into the passing lane and despite taking some time to pick up, the young reinsman never panicked and was able to elicit the required speed over the closing stages.

It was only a narrow margin, the barest possible officially, with a short-half-head posted.

Whittaker has quickly been able to experience the three main TAB tracks in Queensland, taking drives at Redcliffe and Marburg to round out the first full week of the new season.

Going close to landing his second win of the week, Jewel Of Peak was run down in the closing stages on Sunday at Marburg.

Having fought off the challengers and looking to establish a winning break, Lorimer Lady was able to shake clear of heavy traffic after being pocketed to grab Whittaker and Jewel of Peak near the line.

With experience with some of the finest New Zealand conditioners, Luke Whittaker will be a name appearing in the winner’s enclosure more often this season.

 

THE WILDCARD

Zac Chappenden has started the 2022 season in nice touch, with a pair of winning doubles in the past week.

Thursday afternoon at Redcliffe, Chappenden opened his account for the year with an all the way victory aboard Calvert Hot Shot, the win completing a hat-trick for the nine-year-old gelding trained by Amy Cargill.

Winning his last two races of 2021, Calvert Hot Shot was sent straight to the front by Chappenden and once in control was never in danger, powering home in a slick 27.7 closing quarter to claim the victory.

Completing a race-to-race double, the 19-year-old reinsman drove a composed race aboard Lifes Black, having his first drive aboard the Mark McNee prepared gelding.

Sent forward to sit outside the leader, Lifes Black responded to Chappenden’s urging to peel of a strong 27.5 last split and hold off the fast-finishing Little Change.

The win was the 18th race victory for the six-year-old Lifes Black, having now won a race every racing season from two-years-old onwards.

Completing the week at Marburg, Chappenden landed another wining double from his four drives.

Taking on the pacers, the trotting mare Ima Calvert Rose was hustled off the mobile and soon after the field was into stride, Zac was able to burrow through and take control.

Running them along out in front, the pair pulled clear turning for home to put the race beyond any doubt by claiming a winning margin of twenty metres.

The win also established a new track record for trotters over the 1850 metres, stopping the clock in 2.01.5 and shaving 0.8 seconds off the record established by Rosehill Magic when she too defeated the pacers back in October.

The second leg of the winning double came courtesy of the James Lewin-trained Circle Line who was brave in holding on for a narrow victory in the last race of the day.

Rolling out of the gate, Circle Line was soon leading the one-wide line, but Chappenden was content to sit back from the leader and keep the veteran gelding comfortable without applying any pressure.

The leader My Ultimate Heston tried to pinch it through a 28.1 third quarter, but Circle Line just continued to grind away, moving up to strike the lead as they were turning off the back straight.

Responding and digging in for the fight, Circle Line was able to hold on for victory by a neck margin, scoring his 23rd career victory and third under the care of Lewin.

After a lean end to the 2021 season, Chappenden has started this term with a flurry.

 

THIS WEEK

With five race meetings scheduled for the week ahead in Queensland, it will take on a slightly different look to a normal week.

Tuesday and Wednesday remain as Albion Park in the afternoon and Redcliffe in the evening respectively, before the next three days are changed up.

Thursday afternoon will be an Albion Park fixture, as will Friday afternoon.

This week’s metropolitan fixture will be held at Redcliffe, giving the Peninsula Club the opportunity to host a Saturday night meeting in the middle of the school holiday period.

Trialled last year, it proved successful and will be back again in 2022 with the highlights including a $20,000 open class event and a $21,000 trotters discretionary handicap.

Complementing these increased stakes events will be the Final of the Knights and Dames, with a pair of heats held on Wednesday, January 5.

The progressive Hemsworth looks hard to beat after a dominant heat victory.

 

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