It looks like a case of "Christmas Come Early" for Glamorganvale based lass, Dani-Elle McMullen, when she experienced her biggest moment in harness racing recently, taking out the Seymour Rising star Championship with NZ import, Armazem. Not only does Dani-Elle train and drive Armazem, she races the daughter of Art Major and I Izz Sassy in partnership with Kevin and Kay Seymour as part of the Seymour encouragement program for young people in the sport. Kevin Seymour made a grant of $15,000 to each of 10 young trainers to purchase a horse in the hope that the animals would provide a springboard to a viable future in the game and, in Dani-Elle McMullen's case, having not found a suitable pacer, the $15,000 found its way back to its source in exchange for a share in Armazem. In five Australian starts, the 5yo has won twice and been placed on two further occasions, banking $20,000 in the process.
Tonight, the mare has another tilt at the Seymour Final, and is handily drawn on the second line. The bank may jump to $35,000. The Seymours have shown further faith in Dani-Elle McMullen, whose day job is as an assistant in marketing and promotion at Albion Park Harness, by adding the four win son of Mach Three ,All Cash, to her team which now numbers three including the George Michael bred Melton Maxbye which also found the winers circle last week.
It was harness racing in melt down at Ballarat last Saturday night when Stewards inspected sulkies intended for use at the meeting and found that a number of a particular brand of imported sulky were outside specification. The sulkies, which are sold as the "UFO Alien" were, on measurement, found to exceed maximum allowable width by 50mm. The regulation width for race sulkies in Australia is minimum 1.200mm to a maximum of 1300mm. The Chief Steward had no choice but to refuse permission for the offending sulkies to be used and this resulted in a number of trainers taking the "borrow a replacement" option. Several others decided to scratch in protest, which resulted in the $100,000 Ballarat Cup being run with a field of four rather than the programmed 10 runners. Other races on the night were affected to a lesser degree.
What the eventual outcome will be is anybody's guess. It is generally accepted that the closer the sulky is hitched to the horse, the faster the combination. The reasoning being that the drag is reduced by having the driver seated in the disturbed airflow from the horse (which cannot be reduced as it is first to penetrate the atmosphere) rather than further back, where the driver might be perceived as an airbrake. However, the closer you hitch, the wider the sulky must be to accommodate any body shifts while racing which might bring hooves in contact with wheels, causing problems for driver and horse. This is, no doubt, the reasoning behind the offending UFO Alien sulkies. However, we must have a degree of uniformity, and rules to enforce that uniformity. The following is the official position after Chief Stewards across Australia were consulted.
"It was determined that in the interests of all industry participants, the 'UFO Alien' sulky approval be temporarily suspended, effective immediately - prohibiting the ordering, sale and delivery of such sulkies without the express written permission of HRA.
It is important to note that this decision does not restrict the use of existing 'UFO Alien' sulkies which meet the HRA Sulky Standard measurements requirements. These can continue to be used in the usual manner."
A perusal of the current specifications for sulkies finds that no "minimum length" exists, but the "maximum" is set at 3100mm with the exception of longer sulkies, specifically constructed for a particular horse, and used on that horse only by permission of the stewards. In the food for thought department, it is current practice for a small number of our rising drivers to bring their own personal sulkies to the races for use on the horses that they drive should the trainer be amenable. It seems that this fashion had its genesis in the United States, and is based on driver comfort issues. None of the above escapes the inevitable truth that, as one of my bosses said many years ago, "It's what you put in the shafts that does the damage in this business""!!
Back on the home front, Nathan Dawson, who featured in this column several weeks back, kicked another career goal last Saturday night when successful with Emperor Montana in Race One on the program. Dawson used the one alley and "the Emperor's" gate speed to hold the lead before handing up to Beau Dandy (Paul Morris). Off Beau Dandy's back before straightening, Emperor responded to Dawson's vigorous driving to win the frantic charge to the post by a half head from Gooday Stride (Shane Graham) in a rate of 1-54.3.“It was a great feeling and a huge buzz to win my first metropolitan race and hopefully the first of many, I thought I had a good chance and it worked out well. I have to thank Darrel Graham and his owner Dean Shannon. for giving me the opportunity.” Dawson said. With 30 winners this season, including a treble at Redcliffe on Thursday, the only way for Nathan Dawson is up!!
The leader board lights up with Nathan Dawson's super week in the sulky, notching up a total of six winners. Darrell Graham was again top trainer, tasting victory on four occasions.
Resultsville.. Albion Park 12/12.. Bullimore (Trent Moffat for Alan Godwin).. Pandoras Diamond (Nathan Dawson for Glenn Dawson)... Albion Park 13/12.. Emperor Montana (Nathan Dawson for Darrell Graham).. Slipaslygrin (Gary Whitaker for Bill Crosby).. Compton Street (Pete for Chantal Turpin).. Skippy Saddler (Ray Law for Bob Shaw).. Major Sam (Darrell Graham).. Johnny Springfield (Gary Whitaker for T. MacKay).. Albion Park 16/12.. Andiamo El Ferrari (Dani-Elle McMullen for John McMullen).. Slipaslygrin (Gary Whitaker for Bill Crosby).. Makinamove Amy Rees for Doug Lyon).. True Desire (Brendan Barnes for Barty Cockburn).. Redcliffe 17/12 Fifth And Broadway (Adam Sanderson for Darrell Graham).. Iron Flight (Ryan Veivers for James Lewin).. Kariya Hando (Nathan Dawson for Glenn Dawson).. Redcliffe 18/12.. Sportys Special (Hayden Barnes for Chantal Turpin).. Pacific Paradise (Nathan Dawson for Shaun Gillespie).. Signowar (Nathan Dawson for Trent Knack).. Jilliby Hanover (Trevor Lambourn).. Cruisin Luxury (Nathan Dawson).. My Arthur Bee (Brittany Graham for Darrell Graham)..
Happy Christmas A Happy Healthy and Winning New Year to Everyone.