Queensland holds fond memories for star reinsman Luke McCarthy.
The New South Wales born horseman gained his brief in the Sunshine State back in the 1998/99 season and he hasn’t looked back since.
His first drive resulted in success, steering Castle Belles to victory at Redcliffe on March 5, 1999.
When his parents John and Narelle decided to sell their Bathurst property and try their luck in Brisbane, many wouldn’t have predicted what was to follow.
Between 2001 and 2010, the McCarthy family reshaped and revolutionised the art form of training and driving elite standardbred performers.
Big name pacers included Trois Frere, Be Good Johnny, Slipnslide, Cobbity Classic, Fleur De Lil, Washakie, For A Reason and Mr Feelgood among many others during their dominant decade long reign.
And Luke was a pivotal part of the family success.
As a driver he was without peer and claimed most, if not all, feature events on the calendar while also securing the Albion Park Drivers Premiership (2006/07).
When he relocated back to Sydney in 2010, the success continued and so have the raids back to Brisbane.
And most times, he’s not leaving empty handed.
This Saturday night, McCarthy jets back to Albion Park to take a strong book of drives before flying back the following day in readiness for the ‘Super Sunday’ meeting at TABCORP Park, Menangle where he has many key drives.
“It’s a great opportunity with Menangle racing this Sunday to head north and partner with Craig’s (Cross - trainer) team. He’s got about 12 or 13 horses up there and many have good chances this weekend including Miss Graceland.” McCarthy said.
The former Victoria Oaks winner (2017) joins the Cross barn from the leading stables of Victorian based trainer Emma Stewart and connections are looking at the mares feature during the winter carnival, fittingly, the Listed $25,540 Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes on July 14.
The Rocknroll Hanover mare has not raced since finishing fifth at Cranbourne on April 19 but will start a clear favourite in her local debut.
Miss Graceland will start from gate seven in the Gotta Go Cullect @ Egmont Park Stud Pace Over the 1660m sprint distance.
“She’s obviously very classy with a record like she has but she’s only knew to the stable and hasn’t been to the trials. The draw doesn’t look good on paper but class will carry her a long way.
“The Fleur De Lil looks a suitable target and this should have her going in the right direction for that in two weeks, I’m looking forward to driving and she looks my best hope of the night.
“The plan is to be here driving on each of the three big nights of the carnival, this week was a bonus given the Sunday time slot for Menangle. I’ve got a lot of special memories from previous winter carnivals and this is still one of my favourite tracks.”
Other key drives on Saturday’s program include Effronte (Race 1), Hashtag (Race 2) and Admiral Bronski (Race 3).
In the main event, the Listed $25,540 Oakwood Capital Wondais Mate, leading trainer Grant Dixon has booked him to partner talented pacer Frankie Rocks.
McCarthy has driven 55 Gr.1 winners during his career plus the 2009 World Trotting Derby with champion performer Muscle Hill at DuQuoin, Illinois.
Only Gavin Lang (91) and Chris Alford (81) have driven more Gr.1 winners.
Chris Barsby | RQ Web News | June 28