Catch up on the week's harness racing action in our weekly review, thanks to Darren Clayton.
In its 16th year, the Pink Ribbon Cup remains Australia’s largest official community fund-raiser for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
On Saturday night at Albion Park, the Pink Ribbon Raceweek Trophy was taken out by the Jonah Hutchinson owned, trained and driven-Shez Notorious.
The four-year-old mare has put together a smart record for Hutchinson, with Saturday’s victory her fifth success since joining his stable in June this year after he was given the mare.
“The previous owner had enough of her and said if I could get a win from her for him, I could have her,” Hutchinson said.
“I won that race at her third start for me and he gave her to me."
Since that first win, Shez Notorious has now won four for Hutchinson, also recorded a further three placings and claimed a benchmark best rate of 1.53.7 when claiming a mare’s qualifier two starts back.
Sent straight to the front on Saturday from gate five, the first quarter went on the board in a sizzling 26.8 seconds and Hutchinson was able to back the speed off through a 31 second split, before dialling it up again through the third split in 28.6 seconds.
Turning for home, it was the fence runners that appeared the dangers, however, Shez Notorious was in for the fight and rallied gamely to hold on for the victory with a neck the winning margin.
Scotts Rain for visiting NSW trainer JD Stephens and driven by Taleah McMullen grabbed second with Pete McMullen steering the Pat Croghan-trained Awholelotofpretty into third.
The win of Shez Notorious was the 36th winner this season for Hutchinson, that number equal with the career high 36 he prepared through the extended 2019-20 season.
There are some long days for Hutchinson and partner Paige Bevan and plenty of travel, living at Logan Village, but taking their team to Marburg for track work.
“Paige puts in a lot of time with the team and it can be a bit tough, but the team is going really well and they seem happy,” he said.
“We own all the horses in our stable except for one and we have been lucky to get hold of some cheapies and have them turn into handy horses."
With no family involvement in the sport, Hutchinson has forged his own path in harness racing, taking on tried horses, including Torque To The Max, a mare he purchased for $500.
That mare helped establish the young trainer, going on to earn close to $100,000 for him.
The best performed from the Hutchinson stable this term have all claimed five wins, with Shez Notorious, Matai Reactor and Montana Express all with the handful each.
“Lets Blaze is our best horse and he is about to come back, while I think we will see the best from Motu Cullen when he is back at the track, he has had some time off with throat surgery,” Hutchinson said.
With three months of the season to run, 50 winners might just be a realistic target.
Sending a two-time former pacing Oaks winner to a well credentialed pacing stallion, hopes would be high as a breeder that the resultant offspring may become a talented type.
Breeding can be a tough gig at times and when the yearling foal by Betting Line out of All Promises began his early educating, it was evident that pacing was not going to be his forte.
However, what he could do was trot and trot fast and Victorian trainer and breeder Jess Tubbs decided that his future looked brighter in a square gait.
Given the appropriate race name of Not As Promised, it took time to get him to the track, the gelding starting his racing earlier this season as a three-year-old.
Winning at his fourth career start at Shepparton in March, the gelding was purchased by Queensland-based owner Tony Veivers and sent to the stable of Graham Dwyer.
Last Tuesday at Albion Park, the gelding was dominant in victory to remain undefeated since arriving in the Sunshine State, taking his record to three from three for Dwyer.
Starting from a 30 metre handicap in the three-year-old trot, the gelding was driven by Nathan Dawson who settled a long way off the early leader Miss Memphis before making a move with a lap to travel.
Moving up strongly approaching the 400 metre mark, Not As Promised proved too strong for the leader and pulled clear over the closing stages to post a 6.6 metre victory.
The win was the first time Not As Promised has had to overcome a handicap, with his previous Albion Park victories from the front tape and from the front line under mobile conditions.
With two wins in three-year-old events, Not As Promised should now have the points to gain a start in the $15,600 Springboard Final on Tuesday September 26.
Jack Butler claimed a training double on Saturday night at Albion Park, thanks to victories with Deus Ex and Aldebaran Misty.
The win of Deus Ex in the opening event ended a winning drought for the enigmatic pacer, with the seven-year-old’s last victory coming in June 2022.
Proving he can match it with some of the top pacers in the state when at his best, the son of Changeover has battled to show his best at times and has overcome his share of issues.
However, on Saturday he was somewhere near his best when fired off the gate at the mile to take control through a comfortable 28.3 second opening split.
Nathan Dawson was able to pinch a slow second split for open company, and with another steady 28.1 second third panel, was able to rip home in 26.3 seconds to give Deus Ex the 17th win of his career.
With a three-prong attack in the trot, Butler looked well placed to claim the race, presenting three mares, including the top two in the betting with Funny Face sent out favourite and Adelle on the second line.
However it was the third of the trio that was able to claim the victory, Adam Richardson partnering with Aldebaran Misty to an all the way victory after stepping safely from the front tape.
Keeping a genuine tempo in front, the four-year-old mare was able to hold off the fast-finishing Funny Face, giving Butler the training quinella.
The victory brought up the 100th training success for the season for Butler, as he holds down third position in the state trainer’s premiership behind Grant Dixon and Chantal Turpin.
In claiming the triple figures, it continued the success of the stable since moving to Queensland, reaching the century for the eighth successive season.
While Chantal Turpin may have been competing at Menangle on Saturday night with Aardies Flash in the time-honoured Carousel Series, Melton Beach flew the stable flag at Albion Park.
Driven by husband, Pete McMullen, Melton Beach was able to find the front soon after the start before handing over to take the trail on The Grogfather.
With a genuine tempo in front, McMullen angled Melton Beach into the passing lane when the field straightened and the four-year-old sprinted sharply, darting through and pulling clear to claim an effortless victory in a sharp 1.53.6 rate.
The win brought up a half-century of metropolitan winners for the season for Turpin, with a 14-win buffer over the second placed Grant Dixon on 36, with Shane Graham a further five wins back on 31 wins for the term.
With three full months of the season remaining, Turpin is on-track to shatter her previous best number of 52 metro winners in a season.
After setting the benchmark of 52 in the 2021 season, Majestic Simon claimed victory in the last metropolitan race of the 2022 season for Turpin, to move her tally to that same number.
It has been a strong strike-rate this season, highlighted by the strength of the stable with 40 per cent of her 124 wins coming at metro level.
Also sharing in the ownership of Melton Beach, the four-year-old is out of the broodmare gem Miss Sunshine, with Turpin having had great success with the NZ-bred mare’s progeny, having also prepared Mattgregor, Miss Ruby Sunshine and Dance In The Sun
The latest win of Melton Beach was the 46th victory that the progeny Miss Sunshine have secured under the tutelage of Chantal Turpin.
The week ahead boasts six harness meetings in Queensland, starting on Monday night with an eight-race card from Redcliffe.
The week will be evenly split with three meetings each from Redcliffe and three from Albion Park.
Complementing the Monday night meeting, Redcliffe will host nine races on Wednesday night prior to the Thursday afternoon fixture.
The three Albion Park meetings start with 10 races on Tuesday afternoon, a night meeting on Friday before the week round out with the Saturday night metropolitan card.
With three drivers having already claimed 100 driving wins this season in Queensland, there is a chance another three could join them this week.
Grant Dixon (97), Leonard Cain (96) and Brendan Barnes (96) are all closing in on triple figures for the season.