By Duane Ranger
The Marburg Derby and Oaks will be run for the first time in more than half a century at the Marburg Showgrounds on Sunday.
The 700m track, which boasts a 150m straight and no passing lane, suits the on pace-horses. Therefore there’s no better rater of a horse to call on for Marburg advice than the man nicknamed ‘Leader Peter’ - aka Peter McMullen.
“I love Marburg. It’s the local track where I learnt my trade, and I have driven there since I was 14. I’ve been to the Hambletonian and The Breeders Crown, and nothing beats a day at Marburg.
“I’d actually prefer driving there to a mid-week Redcliffe or Albion Park meeting. It’s a real fun atmosphere. I love taking the kids and having a relaxed, family day out. I love the country outlook on life,” McMullen said.
McMullen won’t have too much time to relax on Sunday. He has a full book of drives (except race two), including the Barastoc Marburg Derby Country Classic at 2.26pm and the Barastoc Marburg Oaks Country Classic at 3.05pm. Both 2200m events are worth $7,500.
The 1:59.1 mile rate track record was set by Always My Mate on March 24 last year. He stopped the clock in 2:42.8 - with 30.2, 30.5, 29.7, and 29.3 sectionals.
“The plan is always to get to the front on the tight Marburg track, but it’s not always possible. It depends on the draw and the engine you have in front of you.
“It’s not always that easy though. The track isn’t cambered and it’s not a big run until the first turn. It’s a tricky, tight-turning track, and if you end up parked outside the leader then the race can become a real challenge,” McMullen said.
He said he was delighted that the Derby and Oaks had finally got off the ground.
“It’s excellent for the club and gives the lesser quality 3-year-olds a chance to race for a Derby or an Oaks. It’s a day for the little guys to have their chance to win a quality race, while all the good 3-year-olds are in the spelling paddock,” McMullen said.
Marburg Pacing Association secretary Denis Smith, said the announcement for the two races ‘came out of nowhere’.
“Racing Queensland made the announcement not long ago and we are delighted. We have 18 meetings a year and five to six feature days. This is now one of our highlight meetings,” Smith said.
He also thought McMullen would be hard to beat in the Derby. His selections were Major Slip Up, Feelingforarainbow, and Trojan Banner; and in the Oaks he went for Sports Story, Malibu Dream, and Shesfeelingprecious.
'We were a bit short on numbers but we did have enough quality to programme the two big races. Hopefully this is the start of annual Derby and Oaks races, and perhaps one day the stakes might increase," the 76-year-old said.
McMullen has commented on his Derby and Oaks drives for Sunday. Here’s what ‘Leader Peter’ said:
Race 5: The Bill Crosby trained MAJOR SLIP UP (4) – "He’s got pretty good record at Marburg. His last couple of wins there have been in good time. If he can get forward, he should definitely run a good race. He ran in behind good horses last time and is up against Trojan Banner this time. He’s a quality pacer who raced in the Queensland Derby. I was supposed to see him in the race. Mister Diamond is racing really well too. They look the two toughest for my fella to beat. He’s a real danger if he can find the front. Each-way.”
Race 6: The Jason Carkeet trained SHESFEELINPRECIOUS (2) – "This is a good draw for her because she does have a little bit of gate speed despite being fairly new to racing. She’s been racing well at Redcliffe and this is not an overly strong Oaks field because I think most have the good fillies are now in the spelling paddock. She goes okay and should be handy here. This is an even bunch of fillies we have got here. I don’t want to push her too hard to get to the front, but if she’s handy she can definitely get some of this.”
Footnote: “I’ve got a nice book of drives on Sunday, without any real standouts. My Precious Yankee (R1) has been real consistent lately and can get some of it despite the 30m handicap," McMullen added.