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No longer a hoodoo as Summer kicks off

Catch up on the week’s harness racing action in our weekly review, thanks to Darren Clayton.

 

THE GOOD

Before Saturday night, no horse had ever claimed the two biggest trotting events in Queensland - the Jim McNeil Memorial and the Darrell Alexander Memorial.

Majestic Simon, trained by Chantal Turpin and driven by husband Pete McMullen, broke the hoodoo when scoring a dominant win in the Group 2 DJA Final.

Having claimed the McNeil Final back in March, Majestic Simon was simply too classy for his rivals on Saturday.

Aided by a brilliant start, the five-year-old was quickly into stride from his 10-metre handicap and by the end of 300m was leading the field.

The catch-cry when Darrel Alexander was the leading driver in Queensland used to be “all the way with DJA” and that is how the result eventuated in the 2020 edition of the race named in his honour, with Majestic Simon effectively leading all the way.

Placed third in the first round of heats, the gelding was then an easy winner in the second round heats held over the 2138-metre distance.

Starting second favourite in the Final behind the defending champion Wee Man Trouble, McMullen flew the tapes when they released to surge Majestic Simon to the front.

Claiming the Group 2 feature with two-and-half metres to spare, it was a game Gee Up Neddy that held on for second place, making it successive years as the runner-up for Hayden Barnes.

The win gave long-time stable clients Ross Patrick and Pam Hopper the unique double of Queensland’s premier trotting events.

It was a big night for Patrick, who also owns and bred Will The Wizard who placed third in the QBRED For Life for Colts & Geldings.

Also representing the owner on the night were Miss Ruby Sunshine in the Queen of the Creek, Major Fernco in the Members Cup and Watch Pulp Fiction in the Be Good Johnny Sprint.

Majestic Simon arrived in Australia following two starts for one win in New Zealand.

Since joining the Turpin stable in February 2019, the gelding has put together a further 11 wins from 37 starts, with his win on Saturday taking his earnings past $100,000.

Possessing brilliant speed for a square gaiter, he has always been a work in progress and displayed his talent when dead-heating for first with Our Overanova in the second round of the 2019 DJA, at just his 16th race start.

2020 has been the breakout year for Majestic Simon, who has started on 22 occasions for eight wins and five minors, with Group status wins in the McNeil and DJA Finals.

 

THE BAD

Trainer Narissa McMullen had a three-prong attack on the Albion Park Members Cup on Saturday night and would have had an air of confidence surrounding her chances.

With stable newcomer Kensington Bill landing barrier one and last start winner Colby drawn to follow from barrier eight, on paper and with punters Narissa looked to hold a strong hand.

The third of her runners was It Aint The Money and while he was an outsider according to the market, he did boast a smart last start victory.

However, as the race unfolded, unfortunately for McMullen the plans started to go awry.

Kensington Bill was challenged strongly for the lead and eventually crossed by Nimah Franco in a sizzling 35.1 second lead time.

That left plenty of space of Colby to move off the back of Kensington Bill and that is exactly what happened as he was then sent forward to challenge for the lead.

Further repelled, he was now forced to race outside of Nimah Franco as that trio had pulled clear of the chasing peloton.

Meanwhile back in the pack, It Aint The Money had been retired from the race, leaving Colby and Kensington Bill to fly the flag for the stable.

With 600m left to run, Kensington Bill felt the pinch of the early burn as he started to yield ground and with it, Nimah Franco also hoisted the white flag.

That allowed Colby to run to the front and despite the tough run, he entered the home straight with a slender lead.

But the torrid run told the tale, he was soon swallowed by the chasers, yet was mighty game in defeat to be just over eight metres from the winner.

It was a disappointing result for McMullen, her in-form stable missing out as Always A Secret claimed the Members Cup.

THE MILESTONE

Bringing up a milestone victory is no doubt a satisfying moment, and to achieve it with a feature race win with family involvement would certainly make it more memorable.

On Saturday night in the QBRED For Life 3YO Fillies at Group 3 level, trainer Wayne Graham secured his 1000th training success with the victory of Torque Onetwothree.

The victory was aided by a superb drive by Shane Graham (Wayne’s son) from barrier 7, managing to find the position behind the leader.

Continuing to press forward as the field was released, Shane was able to find the space to angle in behind the early leader Four For Four.

With the economical trip thereafter, the only concern looked to be if the leader could get him to the passing lane in time.

That did eventuate and Torque Onetwothree shot through to claim victory.

It was only fitting the 1000th career victory for Wayne was driven by Shane, the pair combining for so many big race wins over the years.

Wayne has prepared feature race winners such as Yahoo Buckaroo, Sparkling Melody Mach Alert, Park Life, Lively Highlander and Jossie James in a superb career.

Along with the many feature race winners, Wayne Graham has also managed to crack 100 triumphs in a season on one previous occasion.

That came back in the 2008/09 season when Wayne ended the term with 110 winners.

Operating from Moomba Lodge near Beaudesert, it has been a family involvement over many years, with wife Lyn, Shane and daughter Tanya all vital parts of the operation at various stages.

In a wonderful career to date, Wayne and Lyn Graham can add another impressive achievement to their life in harness racing.

 

THE WILDCARD

The extension of the racing season has allowed Governor Jujon to build his three-year-old record even further following his latest victory.

Barrier 13 was not unlucky at all for the Grant Dixon-trained colt as he put his stamp on the QBRED For Life Colts & Geldings event on the opening evening of the Summer Carnival.

With punters opting to send Blacksadance to the post as the favourite under a mountain of support, the Governor reminded everyone why he is regarded as Queensland’s best three-year-old colt.

Sitting back off the speed as the pressure saw three lead changes within the opening 1000 metres of the race, Grant Dixon made his move at the right time.

Blacksadance had worked to the front from barrier 12 and was trying to break clear of the pack yet looming into the race strongly was Governor Jujon.

As they swung for home, there was only one horse you wanted to be on, The Governor charging over the top and pulling clear to claim a four-metre victory.

With the strong tempo, the clock was stopped in a mile-rate of 1.53.1, signalling a new three-year-old track record in eclipsing the previous mark of 1.53.8 held by My Ultimate Star.

In a superb season, the latest victory boosts the local season of Governor Jujon to include victories in the QBRED Triad, the Redcliffe Sales Series 3YO Final, the South East Derby and the Albion Park Members Cup.

While interstate, his wins this season include heat victories in both the Victorian and New South Wales Derby and the Group 2 Simpson Memorial.

Saturday’s victory took his season tally to 11 wins from 16 starts.

 

THIS WEEK

The week starts a little differently with Albion Park hosting a Monday afternoon meeting to get the ball rolling for seven straight days of Queensland harness action.

With normal transmission for the Tuesday through Saturday meetings, the week will be completed with another grass track meeting.

On Sunday, harness action will return to the Darling Downs with a strong meeting headlined by the Warwick Cup at Allman Park.

Also programmed is the Racing Queensland Rose and Rodeo Sprint to be held over 1200 metres.

If opening night is the yardstick, then what’s to come with the Summer Carnival shapes as a bottler on Saturday night at The Creek.

Feature events are the Group 2 Queensland Cup, Four-Year-Old Championship, Forever Gold Mares, the J C McMullen and Three-Year-Old Features for both Fillies and Colts & Geldings.

The opening of the Queensland border following COVID restrictions is likely to see some interstate contenders descend on the Sunshine State as well.