By Duane Ranger
Dannielle McMullen’s recent venture to the United States was a life-changing experience, in more ways than one.
The accomplished reinswoman and her cousin Nathan Dawson, won the month-long ‘Young Achievers Award’ to the USA, which was sponsored by Kevin and Kay Seymour.
She said she learnt so much about the intricacies of harness racing in New Jersey, but her visit to Brooklyn Bridge will forever remain a lifetime highlight.
“That’s where Ryan (Veivers) proposed to me. I was a bit surprised to be honest, but of course I said ‘yes’,” the 23-year-old Alberton horsewoman said.
“It was certainly ‘the trip of a lifetime’. I can’t thank Kevin and Kay enough. I am so grateful. The trip was very well organised. Both Ross Croghan and Chris Ryder went above and beyond to make our time in the US extraordinary.
“They gave us so much knowledge about training and driving techniques. They showed us amazing hospitality and helped organise work with other trainers, day trips and the like,” McMullen said.
She described the racing as incredible.
“Watching Shartin set a world record of 1.46.4 on ‘Hambo Day’ was a highlight as was watching open class horses run quarters in 24.4.
“Some of the things we learnt were unbelievable. For example, many vets drench sick horses with Worcestershire sauce and to my surprise it fixes colic almost every time!”
She hoped the Seymours generous sponsorship would continue for many years so other young drivers got to experience such thrills.
However, the lack of female drivers in the USA did surprise McMullen.
“The trainers were real supportive of us over there, but I was surprised at the lack of lady drivers they have in the States.
“It’s not something they push. It seems to be a male-orientated profession, which I think is a bit sad. There is definitely more equality in Australia, and it makes you appreciate what we have here in Queensland,” McMullen said.
Meanwhile, Mr Seymour was delighted that McMullen enjoyed and learnt a lot abroad.
“It’s great to know that they not only had a great trip away, but they have learnt some valuable life skills that they can take into their careers and personal development.
“‘Hands on’ prizes such as this one not only allows them to ‘see the world’ but also continue their education in harness racing and help them to enjoy their careers going forward,” Seymour said.
“I’m sure when they tell the other juniors of their exploits, it will inspire others to strive harder to win the prize for themselves,” he added.
McMullen is a former Lowood State High School student, who would have gone to University had she not gained the Marketing Co-ordinators job at Albion Park. She has been in that position for six years.
“Even though I’ve also had a trainer’s license since I was 18 (about 20 wins), I prefer driving more. Out on the track you make instant decisions, whereas a trainer you have to be more patient and give it immense preparation.
“I’m so excited about driving at Albion Park tomorrow night. It will be my first Saturday night book since I got home. I’ve even bought a new helmet designed by ‘Bec’s Air Art’, which I’m very proud of,” McMullen said.
McMullen goes into tomorrow night’s meeting in top form.
She’s had two drives this week for two wins – and they were both at ‘The Creek’.
She drove the Veivers trained Secretagent Tycoon to win by 8.2 metres from barrier 10 in the sixth race and then 30m minutes later she steered the Stephen Cini trained Clarry to win by 1.4 metres from gate three.
Clarry is one of six drives for McMullen tomorrow. In fact, that 7-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven gelding has drawn the widest of her half-dozen of drives - at four. The others have drawn one, one, one, two, and three.
“Hopefully it will be a good night. I think Ima Grumpy Possum in race six is probably my best winning chance,” McMullen said.
The meeting will also see the return of two-time 'Horse-of-the-Year' Colt Thirty One in the feature event - The $14,000 Remembering Sporting Son Pace.
The Grant Dixon trained and driven brilliant son of Mach Three has drawn seven, and is paying $1.15 to win. He is also ranked number two for the Auckland Interdominion Pacing Championships at Alexandra Park late next month and early December. (See updated story on him next week).
Meanwhile, McMullen has gone through her book of drives for tomorrow. Her comments (with trainers, draw, and odds) are:
Race 2: The Stephen Cini trained CLARRY (4) $3.60 second favourite - "He had a fall in June and then was spelled. He went super on Tuesday and won in 1:52.7. I’m hoping for the same as Tuesday and the speed will be on again. Hopefully he can come over the top of them again. His spell did him the world of good. From four I think he’s an each-way chance again. I’m hoping we can slot in and get a cart into the race and get one go at them.”
Race 4: The John McMullen trained ROWDY'S ACE (1) - $9 - “He does his best work at Redcliffe, and is a different horse at Albion Park. It all depends how much speed there is. He can figure in the photo finish with the trip and they run no crazy times. We will be looking for a sit.”
Race 6: The Stephen Cini trained IMA GRUMPY POSSUM (1) $9 - Art Official mare who I rate one of my best chances of the night. I haven’t really spoken to Stephen, but she also goes better with a sit. I think a couple might come out quicker than her, but she won’t be far off the leader. She has a lethal sprint if saved for the run.”
Race 7: The John McMullen trained GUTS (1) $12 - “Courage Under Fire gelding who goes pretty good. I always like to think he goes better for me than Taleah (sister) – wink. He improves a lot when he can sit on the fence and take a sit. He is a good sprint-lane chance.”
Race 9: The Ryan Veivers trained CHANTREY (2) $51 - “He was ordinary last start, and we are just hoping he goes better this time around. If he follows the speed he can go close, but it’s not an easy assignment with guns like Colt Thirty One (7), Mattgregor (4), and Fame Assured (5) in the race. I think he will get crossed, but we have the draw to get a nice sit. He can get some of it with luck. So long as he improves from last week, we will be happy.”
Race 10: The Ryan Veivers trained MISTER GUNSEN (3) $61 - “He has a good draw and if he gets away nicely, we can trail and perhaps surprise a few. This is also a tough field, but if she steps, I wouldn’t be writing him off.”
Update: Unfortunately Dannielle has suffered an injury that will prevent her from driving at the meeting.