By Duane Ranger
Don’t be surprised if the only female driver in Sunday’s Trot Rods Series finale leads the boys a merry chase at Redcliffe Paceway.
Queensland’s leading reinswoman, and the State’s only lady driver to notch up 100 wins this season in Narissa McMullen, has a full book of eight quality drives - and it would be a surprise not to see her and Redcliffe trainer, Donny Smith, salute the judge at least once.
The 25-year-old takes on some of the State’s best drivers in eight 947m mobile start races, including her older brother Peter McMullen, Brendan Barnes, Adam Sanderson and Paul Diebert.
“It makes it interesting with just five and sometimes four horses in the field, I’m driving some nice one-lap horses who have nice gate speed so I think I should be in for a great day,” McMullen said.
“I like the concept. It’s something different, and exciting.
“If it can bring more spectators to the sport, then it has to be good and I’m rapt to have a full book of drives.”
She said it didn’t bother her racing against an all-male opposition on Sunday.
“Who I’m driving against never comes into, we are all human,” McMullen said.
“I just want to win races – especially against my brother and I’ll be going all out to do that.”
Speaking on her book of drives, she believed her best winning chance was in heat 15 - race seven at 7.15pm.
“Donny Smith has got Street Appeal going along really nicely at the moment, he’s my best winning chance on Sunday – but not my only winning chance,” McMullen said.
Elsewhere on the card, Diebert said his best drive came behind the Donny Smith-trained With The Band in race eight, while McMullen’s older brother drives second favourite, the Bret Cargill-trained Drizzly Montana in the same race.
Barnes rated Mafioso Girl in race five as his best prospect, while Adam Sanderson went for the current Series leader, the Lachie Manzelmann-trained Dashing Hannah in race six.
Dashing Hannah’s 12-metre victory at ‘The Triangle’ on April 15 is thus far the fastest of the eight heats and current time to beat.
She stopped the clock in 65.63 – 0.10 of a second quicker than Dattitude’s 13.8m victory in the second heat on March 19.
If that time can’t be lowered in Sunday’s eight heats, then the connections of Dashing Hannah will receive a $10,000 bonus.
“The inaugural Trot Rods series has well and truly exceeded our expectations,” Racing Queensland CEO, Adam Wallish, said.
“It was designed to attract new audiences – the broadcast enhancements have played a key role in enhancing the coverage – but it has clearly captured the public’s imagination.
“Throughout March and April, the Trot Rods heats have generated a 10 per cent uplift in turnover in comparison to the other races on the Redcliffe card.
“Innovations such as driver cam have performed strongly across social media and have created widespread debate,” said Wallish.
But can the curse of the helmet cam be broken again?
Only Paul Diebert has worn the helmet camera to victory, behind the Charlie Chang trained $26 outsider, Barboo, in heat seven on April 22 - they paced the 942m in 67.2 that night.
It will be a rapid fire twilight meeting with 20 minutes between each race, kicking off at 5.09pm, with the last scheduled for 7.35pm.
McMullen’s comments about her eight drives (with trainer, runner, draw, form, and opening odds) are:
Race 1: The Ricky Gordon trained RISKY BUZINESS (1) - 75148 - $3.50 second favourite. “He is a nice one-lap horse, who has good gate speed.
“If we can get to the lead he will be a good winning chance.”
Race 2: The Lacey Hinze trained WECANONLYHOPE - 87780 (2) - $9 outsider:
“This is a fairly even race, which could come down to who gets the best run wins.
“I’m not sure about her gate speed, but we do have the draw to lead or sit handy.”
Race 3: The Bianca Hooper trained CRUISIN ALONG - 3777x (3) - $4.20 third favourite.
“I’ve won a race on him before, this is his first start since late September but he does leave the gate well and could go a big race fresh on his home track.”
Race 4: The Peter Greig trained IMA BEACH BABE (4) - 50x32 - $2.30 second favourite.
“She’s a nice filly, who has placed in both of her starts this time in.
“There’s a few gate speed horses in this and we have drawn four of four, so I’ll see how the start pans out.
“I think she’s the best horse in this race and can go close.”
Race 5: The Rob Gorman trained MAJOR LUCKY (5) - 67439 - $4.20 third favourite.
“He’s copped the widest front-row draw as well, but he’s a versatile horse and it will be interesting to see where we end up.
“He has early speed, so the one-lap should suit him.”
Race 6: The Peter Greig trained WESTERN SHOWGIRL (1) - 85514 - $5.50 third favourite: “Another nice filly, whom I rate one of my better drives on Sunday.
“She should go well from the ace even though the Series leader, Dashing Hannah is in the race.”
Race 7: The Donny Smith trained STREET APPEAL (5) - 18112 - $1.50 warmest favourite of the day:
“He’s a nice 4-year-old, who is my best winning chance, we have drawn the widest again, but that shouldn’t stop him.
“Donny has him firing at the moment and he’s trained on the track. He should run a nice time.”
Race 8: The Michael Tenardi trained AQUA CRUISER (2) 28662 - $7.50 third favourite.
“There’s only four starters in this, which should suit him, because he’s also got good gate speed.
“He’s racing okay and is another pacer who can certainly figure.”