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McMullen connections enjoy a night to remember

By Duane Ranger

Glamorgan Vale trainer, John McMullen, was proud for two very different reasons at Albion Park on Saturday night.

Following the third race of the card, his eldest daughter and Queensland’s leading female driver Narissa posted her 900th career driving success behind Midnight Man.

Then an hour later, stable employee Danny Gatt Bouquet notched up his biggest career victory with just his second Saturday night triumph.

“Big congrats to Narissa, not only for her 900th win, but her whole career really - all the McMullens can drive well, and she is no exception,” Gatt Bouquet said.

“I’m pretty happy with my win too, it was my only drive on a Saturday night.

“I don’t get many drives, and I’m extremely grateful to Ryan (Veivers) for putting me on Lettucefirestar - this is the biggest purse I have won as a driver.”

McMullen was equally proud, saying she was delighted to bring up the 900 on a pacer that she also trained and owned.

“The 900 is just another number really and I don’t look too closely at statistics, I try and win every race I’m in and then take a look at the tally at the end of the season,” McMullen said.

“Midnight Man is a lovely horse and I have had him for a few months now.

“Hopefully he will help me get to my personal best tally at the end of the 2019-2020.”

The 24-year-old’s best season came in 2013-2014, when she racked up 139 winners and $566,191 in prizemoney.

She has already exceeded that purse with her 101 winners for $691,499 this season.

McMullen’s 100th victory came at Albion Park last Tuesday behind another gelding she also trains and drives at Alberton in Cautiva.

“The winners have stacked up very quickly and I’m quite proud of what I’ve achieved in my career so far, it’s always hard trying to catch Peter though,” McMullen said.

Narissa’s older brother Peter, sits second on the Queensland Driving Premiership with 112 wins – 13 behind pace-maker Nathan Dawson, and 11 more than his third-placed sister.

In an odd twist of fate, neither the McMullen family nor Gatt Bouquet would have been at Albion Park on Saturday night had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Dannielle (the McMullen’s second youngest sister) was due to marry Ryan (Veivers) on Sunday, and I was Ryan’s groomsman,” Gatt Bouquet said.

If the wedding hadn’t been called off until October, I’d say we would have all been at rehearsals on Saturday night.”

But the Fairfield-born and Menangle-educated Gatt Bouquet is just rapt to be back driving again after a forced lay-off.

“It’s been hard getting drives at the best of times, but being injured hasn’t helped,” Gatt Bouquet said.

“Hopefully now the owners and trainers can see that I can drive a bit, even though I get limited opportunities.”

Gatt Bouquet broke three vertebrae in a race fall behind The Last Dragon at Redcliffe in early January, and has only recently mended.

“A horse went up behind me in the score-up and flattened me to the ground, it’s not what I needed when trying to make an impression up here,” Gatt Bouquet said.

Gatt Bouquet left school in his early teens and was always destined for a life of harness racing.

His father Graham is an astute trainer, as is his Uncle, Robert.

“Trotting is deep in my blood, both my grandfathers also trained horses - their names are Norm Murray and Oscar Gatt.”

Gatt Bouquet has worked for several trainers, including Jarrod and Ricky Alchin, Blake Fitzpatrick, and Kevin Pizzuto, before coming to Queensland to work initially for Matt Purcell, Shane Graham, and  John McMullen (two stints).

“I’m in behind John’s pacer named Nifty Studleigh (on Tuesday), unfortunately he has drawn the outside of the front row, but the punters have already installed him a $7.50 fifth favourite so here’s hoping” Gatt Bouquet said.

Meanwhile, two of Queensland’s senior horsemen recorded two wins apiece at ‘The Creek’ on Saturday night.

Darren Weeks and Grant Dixon who both recently lost their fathers, Des and Bill respectively, trained the winners of four of the 10 races on offer.

Weeks kicked of the evening in grand style when driving favourite Anychance to win race one, and then thanks to a lovely Kylie Rasmussen drive, repeated the dose with $1.20 hot-pot Major Cam in the ninth event.

Dixon’s wife Trista obliged in the sixth event, when steering Cherrys The Best to victory.

Four races later her husband drove another favourite, Miss Money Bags to an easy 3.6 metre win.

Dixon still leads the national training premiership with 166 wins -  27 more than Victoria’s Emma Stewart.