Catch up on the week's harness racing action in our weekly review, thanks to Darren Clayton.
After finishing on the podium twice previously, Angus Garrard has been crowned the 2023 BOTRA Young Drivers Champion following the conclusion of the six race series on Sunday night.
Starting on Wednesday night at Redcliffe with two races, a further two heats were held at Albion Park on Friday afternoon before the final two heats were back to Redcliffe following the transfer of the scheduled Marburg meeting.
It is the first win for Garrard after three previous attempts have seen him finish second in 2020, third in 2021 and fourth in 2022.
Claiming the series by 21 points, Garrard recorded 61 points made up from two wins and two second placings across the four heats, with Taleah McMullen finishing second on 40, one point behind in third place at his first attempt was Nathan Rothwell on 39.
It was Paige Bevan that struck first on Wednesday night aboard the Trent Moffat-trained Shadys Cullect, withstanding a strong challenge soon after the start to lead throughout with eight metres to spare on the wire.
Heat two went to Rothwell after coming with a well-timed run aboard the Donny Smith-trained Bettys Gold Class to defeat Garrard who was driving the race favourite, Sunrise Ruby for Grant Dixon.
Jordan Topping claimed the third heat for trainer Narissa McMullen when the series shifted to 'The Creek', producing Crime Time with the right trip to rattle home and claim a narrow victory over the Chloe Butler-driven Ima Birubi Boy.
The fourth heat saw Garrard claim his first victory, leading from barrier to box with the Mark Rees-trained Madrigal.
Firing out to led early, Madrigal was able to dig for the fight under Garrard’s urgings to hold off a fast-finishing Arkin Wicked for Paige Bevan, with Amanda Payne picking up her first points with a third behind Bonnies Dance.
With the series up for grabs following the four heats, Garrard put it effectively out of reach after the fifth heat was held on Sunday afternoon at Redcliffe.
Sending the Mat Wright-trained Tapthekeg straight to the front as the mobile pulled clear, the pair were never headed with the win breaking a three-year win drought for the eight-year-old gelding.
The final heat saw Amanda Payne claim her fourth win of the season, driving a well-judged race aboard the favourite, Skippers Swan Song for trainer Chris Watson.
Settling at the rear, Payne angled wider and made her run at the right time to bring the six-year-old mare home down the outside to claim victory.
With another second placing aboard the Ricky Gordon-trained Jang Pel, Garrard was able to claim his first BOTRA Young Drivers Championship.
Making it a night to remember with the title, he was able to claim a winning treble on the night, with wins aboard Bella Bronski and Born To Write to cap a successful night.
Despite not picking up a heat win, Taleah McMullen was consistent through the series to hold second place, with Rothwell in third.
Marburg-based trainer Ron Wells produced four runners in the past week.
In an ironic twist, it was the horse that Wells admits is the best horse in his stable that was the only one of the four that was not successful.
Starting on Wednesday night at Redcliffe, 11-year-old veteran Donny Jones is closing on 300 career starts but there is still plenty of speed in the legs after he charged home to claim the popular Cup Day at the Bay Final.
Buried away three back along the inside, Adam Richardson was able to get the gelding into space and arrive in time for victory.
Back to 'The Triangle' on Thursday afternoon with just the one runner, Mighty George was able to find the one-by-one trail with Nathan Rothwell taking the reins.
Owning the closing speed to defeat his rivals, Mighty George continued his consistent form to claim his third win from his past five starts.
Lining up on Saturday night with Cosmic Flyer, the star of Wells’ small team, the stable was hopeful of a strong showing by the talented juvenile after drawing inside the second line behind what looked the likely leader.
While the one horse, Rockon Rocky, was able to lead, Cosmic Flyer struck trouble before the start and breaking gait before the field was released, missed his chance to hold the pocket spot.
Still finishing the race nicely, despite missing the money, Wells is looking forward to seeing the gelding go for a spell and return as a three-year-old.
“Three-year-old, I think the distance 2100 metres, I think will suit him even better,” Wells said.
Despite the disappointment of Saturday night, the stable was back in the winner’s enclosure on Sunday at Redcliffe, again taking one runner to the Peninsula and coming away with victory.
Captain Oh Captain had suggested a win was not too far away following his last start second and the five-year-old was able to frank that assessment, finishing hard from back in the pack to score with Nathan Rothwell in the bike.
Always tinkering with a horse or two around her Redcliffe stables, it was a rare visit to headquarters on Saturday night for Jenny Anderson.
So rare have the trips been over recent years for Anderson, she had to enlist the help of her good friend Greg Franklin to help transport her filly Last Call to Albion Park on Saturday night.
It turned out to be a trip worth making as Last Call showed a great turn of speed to dart through along the passing lane to grab victory.
Purchased as a cheap unplaced maiden out of Victoria, Last Call has thrived since arriving in Queensland with Anderson and following Saturday’s victory has now taken her record to four wins and five minor placings from 16 starts.
Despite starting at big odds, Anderson was confident her filly would run a good race.
“I could not let her go around at that price; I have had something at the $100-1,” Anderson said.
“Her sectionals last start off the track last start at Redcliffe were brilliant. I knew she would like this track because she struggles around the Redcliffe track.”
It was a patient drive from Mathew Neilson who knows the filly well, having been aboard at each of her four wins.
Waiting until the passing lane presented, despite a tiring leader checking his momentum, when Neilson angled Last Call into the passing lane, she responded and sprinted hard to grab Sista Bliss who had loomed up out wide, right on the wire.
Stopping the clock in a 1.55.6, it was a new personal best for the daughter of Four Starzzz Shark.
Narissa McMullen moved to 99 wins for the season last Tuesday at Albion Park with an all-the-way victory aboard the Stephen Cini-trained Sheza Cracker.
Three races later and triple figures looked in the bag, driving Aphrodite, Narissa loomed strongly down the outside off a solid tempo and with victory looking secured, was grabbed in the last stride by a fast-finishing Littlelioneljames.
Another second placing in the next race aboard Gwyneth P, the hundred would have to wait until another day.
With no drives at Redcliffe on Wednesday or Thursday, her first drive back at 'The Creek' on Friday and again, it was another second placing in the third race of the day aboard Sailalong Sinbad.
Taking the reins behind her own stable runner Last Time Joe, the milestone was secured as the six-year-old rattled home strongly down the outside of the track to claim his ninth career victory.
Quickly making it a winning double one race later, it has been a great achievement to reach the triple figures in 2023, after being involved in a nasty race fall at Redcliffe back in February.
Forced to spend time on the sidelines after sustaining some serious facial injuries, Narissa has been able overcome the injury, claiming her second Group 1 victory in August when driving Rylee Rhayne Bow to victory in the QBRED Triad.
The 100 victories is the fifth successive season that McMullen has reached triple figures and the eighth time in her career.
With the Inter Dominion fast approaching, this week will see acceptances and final ranking for the series released.
Acceptances were finalised Monday morning and the final rankings will be released on Wednesday.
It will be a five-meeting week for racing, with three meetings from Albion Park and two from Redcliffe.
Saturday night will see the Final and Consolation of the popular up to NR70 Series which have produced some super racing in recent months.