By Duane Ranger
She won the Australasian Young Drivers Championship in 2017 and now Queensland’s recently crowned Australian Female Drivers champion, Narissa McMullen, has another burning ambition.
“I want to drive a Group One winner now. That’s my next goal. In the meantime I just want to keep driving winners and become a better driver,” the Fernvale resident said.
The talented 24-year-old reinswoman finished top of the 12-strong table with 79 points at Saturday's Australian Female Drivers Championship at Albion Park.
Her points came via wins behind Annika Magic and Subtle Delight in heats two and five; and she also finished second and fourth behind Shards Halo (Heat 1) and Cool Scoter (Heat 3).
KerryAnn Turner (NSW) was runner-up with 75 points, while Victorian harness racing legend Kerryn Manning, and McMullen’s cousin Kelli Dawson, finished tied for third with 54 points apiece.
McMullen said it was always good to get one over family members, especially brother Peter.
“He’s my only brother and the only one older than me. I’m probably more competitive with him and my sisters than I am my cousins," she said.
“It was great to see Kelli do so well. Nathan (Dawson) is also a cousin so there’s a few of us out there. I’ve only just started to take it all in. I’m so happy,” McMullen said the morning after her nailing her first Australian title."
McMullen and her siblings, Peter and Danni-elle have all won BOTRA Queensland Juniors Driving titles as well.
McMullen, who works at her parents – John and Jennette’s stable at Glamorgan Vale, said she celebrated with a night out.
“It was an amazing feeling and even though I was 13 points ahead going into the last heat I never took anything for granted. I just had to focus,” McMullen said.
“Only this morning has it really started to sink in. I’m so proud."
There were seven heats of the AFDC on Saturday and two other tote races. McMullen carried on her winning ways in the ninth event – in track record time.
She steered the Stephen Cini trained Quietly Spoken along the passing lane to win the feature 1660m trot in 1:59.3, which equated to a 1:55.6 mile rate.
“It’s been a night to remember. Stephen had this mare spot on tonight,” McMullen said immediately after the $9,000 trot.
According to Saturday's racebook, McMullen has now driven 726 winners and had 6,560 drives. She vividly remembers her first win.
“That was Miniature Classic for Ron Sallis at Albion Park (October 18, 2010). My brother ran second (Southern Pacific),” she said.
Dad - John, who won the Australasian Junior Driving title in 1986, and Mum - Jennette were “super proud”.
“All four of our kids (including Taleah) are fierce rivals on the track and enjoy bragging rights at the Monday night family dinner," Jenette said.
“Pete, Narissa and Danni-elle have always been competitive since their pony trot days. Pete was very proud last night though, ringing me on his way home to tell me Narissa proved she is the best female driver in Australia.
“He said she drove six out of seven ‘top races’, and the only bad drive for the night was on his horse."
She said doing the hard yards and driving ordinary horses had taught Narissa to be a good driver.
“Her hard work and has dedication paid off’. Dad’s (John) quote is: ‘All his years of advice have finally paid dividends’. That’s tongue in cheek as he is a very hard task master as everybody at the track knows,” Jenette said.
She said her daughter studied Science and Journalism for a year after leaving school and gave that up for her love of horses.
“Narissa trained and owned a top horse called Bettor Draw who finished third in an Interdominion heat in Brisbane in 2015. Then he ran fourth in the Bohemia Chrystal at Menangle a few weeks later," Jenette said.
“He was a super horse to her and led Narissa to move to Sydney for six months to train. Murano was another nice horse that Narissa had. He won great horse about 15 races.
“In 2015 she won the Lady Drivers Group 2 Invitation race on Inters day as well. That was probably her most successful year.
“As you can tell, I am very proud of all my kids."
Meanwhile, McMullen’s three wins added another $600 to the Women’s Cancer Team Teal Fundraiser. She finished the February 1 to March 9 campaign with the most wins (23).
Women in fact won eight of the nine races carded last night, ensuring another $1600 was added to the final pot, which totalled more than $11,000.
Competitors in last night’s 2019 Australia Female Driving Championship were: Narissa McMullen and Kelli Dawson (QLD), Hannah Vandongen (TAS), Samantha Gangell (TAS), Kerry Ann Turner (NSW), Ellen Rixon (NSW), Madeline Young (WA), Emily Suvaljko (WA), Lisa Ryan (SA), Kaela Hryhorec (SA), Kima Frenning (VIC), and Kerryn Manning (VIC).