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Personal bests tumble and milestones smashed in a big week for harness racing

By Darren Clayton

SPRINGBOARD TO SUCCESS

Friday night saw the running of the Springboard Series Finals for both the two and three-year-old trotters at Albion Park.

It was the second running of the two-year-old series, with victory claimed by the filly Aldebaran Selena.

Having claimed the 1628-metre track record in winning a heat of the Series, the daughter of Majestic Son lowered that mark once again in claiming the Final.

Showing clean manners, the filly stepped straight to the front and was never bothered thereafter, trotting safely in scoring a four-metre victory over Defensive Guy, with Okanagan a further 18 metres away in third place.

Trained and driven by New South Welshman Rickie Alchin, Aldebaran Selena looks to have a bright future and looks set to pave the way for continued growth of the juvenile trotter in Queensland.

Meanwhile in the three-year-old division, Indefensible was looking to add the 3YO Series to his 2YO victory in this Series last year.

However, the Terry Hancock-trained and Narissa McMullen-driven Aurora was the worthy winner, with a perfect display in front.

Stepping straight to the front, the fill led throughout to take the inaugural Springboard for the three-year-olds.

A model of consistency throughout the series, she has been faultless in her manners, stepping cleanly on every occasion.

Giving nothing a look-in from the front, Aurora cruised home to an 11-metre victory, making a clean sweep of the Series in the process after taking our all four heats.

Albion Park

SPRINGBOARD SERIES 3YO TROTTING FINAL 2138m

THE GOOD

Racing needs good stories and the tale of Maywyns Best fits that bill.

The rising 11-year-old is in career best form for trainer Graham Dwyer and on Saturday night stretched Cruz all the way over the Albion Park mile, spearing out to lead from gate four with the speed on all the way.

With the slick 3.3 lead time followed by a sizzling 26.6 second opening quarter, Pete McMullen kept the gelding rolling throughout.

Despite having the sit on Maywyns Best, it took Cruz until deep into the stretch to reel in the leader, scoring a near two-metre victory.

It was a brave effort by ‘Bestie’ who set the quarters of 26.6, 29.6, 27 and home in 27.7 to hold on for second.

Having trained the gelding for a large portion of his career for previous owners Rob and Pam Essex, the opportunity to purchase the then eight-year-old out of a claiming race was too good to pass up for Dwyer.

Despite an injury enforced five months on the sidelines immediately after being claimed, Dwyer and his team have rejuvenated the son of Blissful Hall.

In a tremendous season, the gelding has scored eight wins and placed a further 12 times, while running a career best winning time of 1.51.0 on June 6.

It has been a watershed season for Dwyer, who currently sits in sixth position in the State Trainers Title.

Career best figures look set to rise by season’s end for Dwyer, currently leading in 64 winners and a further 102 placings.

 

THE BAD

The Winter Carnival did not eventuate the way it was envisaged, but then again nothing in 2020 around the world has really gone to script.

If anyone had suggested that Cruz would be the star of the revised Queensland winter, there may well have been people scoff at the suggestion.

With his position on the pecking order seeing him down the line behind the likes of Cash N Flow, King Of Swing, Alta Orlando and Replaced Eye at his home barn, he was sent to Queensland in the hope of making hay while the winter sun shines.

Not only did he re-gain winning form, the Craig Cross prepared pacer has taken all before him and on Saturday night was able to secure another race victory to stay undefeated in his three starts this campaign.

Without doubt the highlight was his victory in the Wondai’s Mate Open Pace, when scorching around the Albion Park oval in a 1.50.4 mile rate.

That effort saw him equal the track record once held outright by one of the greatest pacers ever, in the shape of Im Themightyquinn.

Following his scorching mile, the gelding backed that up with another dominant victory in the Mr Feelgood over the 2138-metre trip, in a run that was not too far off the track record held by Bling It On.

Completing the hat-trick with another slick mile victory on Saturday night when stopping the clock in a 1.50.8 mile, Cruz has been the bright light of the Cross stable in Queensland.

Not bad for a horse that struggles to be in the top five at home!

Albion Park

GARRARDS HORSE & HOUND OPEN PACE 1660m

THE WILDCARD

Always In Command started favourite in the Mr Feelgood at Egmont Park Pace on Saturday night, despite going into the contest with a ‘duck-egg’ next to his name in four of his previous five starts.

That didn’t deter punters however, who were keen to support the Donny Smith-trained gelding that looked the likely leader in the 1660m event.

Eh Ef El - drawn in gate one - and driver Shane Graham had other plans and hustled hard with the benefit of the inside alley to repel the challenge of Always In Command through a lightning fast 26.6 second opening split.

That left Nathan Dawson at the reins of Always In Command forced to cut the breeze.

Content to hold that position, Dawson put the leader away at the 400-metre mark and looked to kick clear and breaking free of the pack, holding off the closing challenge of Sir Julian to score by a head.

It was a new career PB for the eight-year-old, stopping the clock in 1.51.8 for the mile.

It was the 10th success since being prepared by Smith, with the former Redcliffe track record holder proving he was Always In Command.

 

THE MILESTONE

Taleah McMullen became the latest Queensland Centurion when steering Rancho Man to success at Marburg on Sunday.

Heading into the meeting, the youngest of the four McMullen siblings was on 99 winners for the term and soon made the breakthrough to triple figures for the first time in her career.

Second only to Angus Garrard on the Queensland Concession Drivers Premiership, Taleah became the second female to make it 100 driving wins for the season.

In the process, Taleah has joined eldest sister Narissa and brother Pete in reaching 100 wins for the term.

After searching the record books, it appears that it may well be the first time in Australian harness history that three siblings have all recorded triple figures in the same season.

Highlights for the youngest daughter of John and Janette have been the success of her own horse Tommy Under Fire who returned from a break triumphant in late June.

More pleasing for McMullen has been the fact that the Courage Under Fire gelding spent a long time on the sidelines and took plenty of care and rehabilitation to get him back to the track.

Marburg

A CHANCE AT A CHAMPION AT 5$ A TICKET - HEAT 4 1850m

THIS WEEK

Following the five heats of the Marburg to Albion Series held on Sunday, this Saturday will see the Final held on the Albion Park Saturday night card.

Winners of the heats were Bukthsystem, Pago Pago, Rancho Man, Allstar Sea and Viewbytherock who will be looking to claim a second success after taking out the last of these popular events for trainer/driver/owner Megan Gee.

Friday at Albion Park will also see heats of the Australian Pacing Gold, Brisbane Sales Graduate Series.

Heats for the $100,000 Group 1 Final are restricted to those horses from the 2019 APG Draft entered for the Brisbane Sale.

Recent QBRED Triad winner Jasper looks set to be a big player in the series, with Don Heston - a recent acquisition to the Grant Dixon stable - also looking like he will be one to watch.