Trotter Hammer Son delivered Doug Lee a drought-breaking victory in the sulky and the veteran driver is hopeful of making it two inside a month in the second week of heats for the Jim McNeil Trotting Championship on Friday.
The 66-year-old Lee and Hammer Son ran into fourth in the opening heat last Friday evening at Albion Park and they have drawn two for the second round this time around.
While Lee has started six standardbreds in a race as a trainer this year, he has only driven one himself – Hammer Son.
After a shoulder injury some time ago suffered at Redcliffe, the Stockleigh-based horseman no longer drives the pacers in races, he just focuses on the trotters.
And, as he only has the one square gaiter in his barn at the moment consistently racing, then Hammer Son is his regular race day companion.
Lee had not driven a winner in the sulky since way back in the 2018-2019 campaign before Hammer Son bolted in at Redcliffe late last month.
The bay gelding won well enough for Lee to cruise to the line and give a winning salute at The Triangle.
He has more than 700 winners in the bike on his resume across his career but had not registered one in recent seasons.
As a trotting man from way back, Lee enjoys that he can stick with his square gaiter.
“It is a little bit easier with the trotters,” he said of his shoulder.
“I have always had the love of the trotters from my grandfather Snowy Finn, who trained the Inter Dominion winning trotter Bay Johnny back in the day.”
Lee is referring to the ID triumph at South Australia’s Globe Derby Park in 1976.
The Lee stable is already a two-time winner of the popular Group 3 Jim McNeil Trotting Championship series.
Scorched won the prize back in 2019 while Justabitnoisy did it three years prior.
Lee was in the bike when Justabitnoisy won that year.
Justabitnoisy won the Trotters Marathon back in 2019, as well, which was also raced as a Group 3 event.
Group 1-winning reinsman Adam Sanderson originally drove Hammer Son for Lee before he passed the task back to his trainer.
After initially doing his racing in Victoria and South Australia, Hammer Son has been with Lee in the Sunshine State since the middle of last year.
“He had a few troubles early on with his shoes and I fixed that up,” Lee recalls.
“That is the main reason I am driving him myself as Adam drove him one day and did not know what the horse did when he galloped, so he suggested I have a drive.
“I drove him in a trial and did his shoes different and since then, I have driven him in every start and he has been good.
“Since I have looked after his feet and that, he has jumped out of the ground really.”
The five-year-old gelding was beaten just over three metres in last week’s opening heat over 2138 metres.
“He went good but he just did not take the sprint lane,” he said.
“He has never ever done it, that is the first time I have pulled him to the inside of a horse as he has always come wide.
“He sort of wanted want to hang out a little bit into the leaders wheel and I could not drive him the way I wanted.
“He went good, he hit the line as good as any horse in that race but I only really straightened him up the last 50 metres and he really motored in that last 40 or 50 metres.”
Lee is looking for the son of Majestic Son to do his best work late in the second heat of round two on Friday night.
“He likes to get home, he likes to have one go at them,” he said.
“The other day, I went past the post and made him go another furlong as he was full of running to see how he would go to the 2600 metres as he has never been over it.
“I do not think it would worry him as he finishes his races off so well.
“I do not think he is strong enough to be sitting in the death seat but if he gets a good cart into it, that’ll be good.
“I thought they would have gone a little quicker last week than they did, they went the same time in both heats.”
Lee had two from his team go around at Redcliffe on Thursday afternoon - Fortes In Fide and Lifeinheaven.
The Jim McNeil Trotting Championship is always a popular series in Queensland.
A respected businessman and horse owner, the late McNeil was a pioneer of trotting races in the Sunshine State, helping lift the horse population around Brisbane as well as increasing the profile of the form of racing.
The Jim McNeil Trotting Championship has been run since 2011.
Trotters must contest both heats to be eligible for the Final, which will be run as a a $27,186 Rating Penalty race on Saturday, March 25.
The Final will consist of the 14 starters that pick up cumulative points across the heats.
First round heat winners over the 2138 metre journey were Everysecondcounts for trainer Richard Hutchinson and Kar Manor for Tim Butt.