Harness racing year in review: part one

In the first of a two-part series, harness racing expert Darren Clayton takes a look back at the highs and lows of the sport in 2023.



The first race of the new season was claimed by Set Me Free, the square gaiter trained by Kay Crone and driven to victory by Angus Garrard, who went on to claim his single biggest season in the sulky by winners.

Jaziah was the first horse to secure connections the new QBRED third win bonus which commenced at the start of the 2023 Season.

Trainer Mark Dux turned back the clock in the opening metropolitan fixture of the season, preparing three winners with Captain Nemo, Alwaysbme and Matatoki successful.

It was the first metro treble for Dux in over 15 years.

It was a breakout season for trainer Graham Dwyer and it all started in January at Tamworth, securing a raid on the New England area features.

Dwyer claimed the first three placings across the line in the Gold Nugget and then shot to the top of the pops when Surf Ace secured victory in the Golden Guitar with Brendan Barnes taking the drive.

Taleah McMullen was successful in the inaugural running of the John and Beryl Dawson Legacy Pace and led home a McMullen family trifecta, steering home Stormtide over brother Pete, with Narissa filling third place.

The Australian Pacing Gold Sale saw the top lot sell for $100,000 and equal the Queensland record sale price for a pacing yearling sold in the Sunshine State, the son of first season sire Captain Crunch purchased by Norm Jenkin.

Team Raboki, led by trainer Shannon Price picked up their first feature of the year when Sure Thing Captain claimed the R C Simpson Sprint at Menangle.

Starting a $1.35 favourite, Adam Sanderson landed the armchair victory aboard the smart colt which was having just his fourth career start.

Ricky Gordon secured a quartet of victories at Redcliffe from just six races on the card in a great start to the season.

The extended Dawson/McMullen families following the John and Beryl Dawson Legacy Pace


Tims A Trooper has competed in the shadow of his stablemate Leap To Fame, however the talented four-year-old progressed through to another Group 1 Final when earning Chariots Of Fire qualification through the Hondo Grattan Sprint.

Shannon Price and the Team Raboki continued their strong interstate campaign with a Menangle double courtesy of wins to Sumomentsomehere and Van Sank.

The awards night for the 2022 Season saw Leap To Fame presented with the Queensland Three-Year-Old and Queensland Horse of the Year titles.

Majestic Harry secured the Trotter of the Year award and inductees to the Queensland Hall of Fame were legendary horseman Vic Frost and the top pacer Henry Luca.

The huge season that lay ahead for Nathan Dawson saw the first milestone of 2023 ticked off when reaching 50 wins for the season on February 15.

Doug Lee wound back the clock, securing his first driving victory since August 2019 when guiding Hammer Son to victory.

Finally, Kelli Dawson reached a milestone of 500 career driving wins with a victory aboard Shereacts at Marburg.

2022 Queensland Harness Awards


Warren Hinze trained half the card in the first meeting of the year held on the grass at Kilcoy, giving him his first ever training treble.

Leonard Cain passed the 500-win milestone, securing the moment aboard the Brian McCall trained Snack Time Rocks.

The Nutrien Sunshine Stars Yearling Sale was held which also coincided with the slot auction for the newest race on the Queensland calendar – The Hayden.

Two slots topped the auction at $19,000 with $131,000 in total added to the prize money, taking the stakes to $231,000 for the first running of the race which provided automatic qualification into Racing Queensland’s slot to The Eureka.

Mat Wright claimed a winning trifecta at Redcliffe, training the first three across the line when Todays Hero, Man Of Action and Aunty Frances were able to fill the top three spots, claiming the unique achievement for the first time in his training career.

Matt Elkins secured his first trotting training win, bringing it up with a feature race when C K Spur was successful in the Our Overanova Trotters Marathon.

Nathan Dawson claimed win 100, breaking the Australian record for the fastest century of winners, breaking the previous record held by Chris Alford and Daryl Douglas.

The 13th Jim McNeil Memorial went to the Doug Lee trained and driven Hammer Son, Lee having now won the feature on three occasions.

Lancelot Bromac set a new benchmark for most starts in Australia when the veteran stepped out for his 500th race appearance.

2023 Sunshine Stars Yearling Sale


The Australian Female Drivers Championship was held at Albion Park, with Michelle Phillips claiming the title for Victoria.

Nathan Dawson reached another milestone with the 1500th win of his career when guiding Our Modern Minnie to victory.

Nathan Rothwell claimed his first victory since relocating back to Queensland when successful with Tommy Bligh.

The Marburg Goldstrike in its sixth running and boasting stakes of over $35,000 in 2023 was won by the Grant Dixon-trained and Adam Sanderson-driven In Chevron We Trust.

Owner Greg Mitchell has now annexed all three feature standing start events in Queensland, the 2023 Goldstrike joins Mitchell’s victories in the 2015 Redcliffe Cup with Alleluia and the 2014 Premiers Cup with Major Moment.

Shane Graham reached 3,000 driving wins and became just the third Queensland driver to achieve the feat, joining Grant Dixon and Lola Weidemann.

Speak The Truth claimed his first feature of the season with an impressive victory in an APG Bullion Race, running a slick 1.51.9 mile.

More Sass claimed the 2YO Bullion Final to give Team Raboki the APG feature double.

Adam Sanderson landed both APG features and also secured another milestone in April, securing his 1000th driving win of his career.

Ashlee Nitro secured the most wins by a mare at Redcliffe when winning her 20th race around The Triangle.

The Trot Rods also made another return to Redcliffe with the first two heats held of the 2023 Series.

Meanwhile, Agent Black claimed the APG Series at Menangle with a dominant display.

The rangy son of Sebastian K became the first Queensland trained winner of an interstate juvenile trotting feature, highlighting how far the trotting gait has progressed in the past 15 years, that progression even more evident in the past five years.

Speak The Truth and connections following his APG Bullion triumph


Leap To Fame made his first race appearance as a four-year-old, returning with a classy victory, returning 197 days on from his NSW 3YO Breeders Victory in a PB 1.49 with an Albion Park victory.

The Nathan Dawson show of 2023 rolled on with the country’s leading driver securing five winners on a metropolitan card, becoming the first since Pete McMullen in 2021 to achieve a quintet on a metro card.

Layne Dwyer secured his first driving victory when steering Little Change to victory at Redcliffe.

Lancelot Bromac broke new ground when reaching 500 career starts in March and the veteran chalked up another milestone in May, securing his first ever Redcliffe victory.

The 34th win of Lance’s career came at his 29th attempt at breaking his Redcliffe duck, with Leonard Cain taking the reins for the moment.

Nathan Rothwell added another special moment to his year when Playa Blanca gave Rothwell his first metropolitan win as both a trainer and driver.

Graham Dwyer claimed a winning treble at The Creek, two of the winners starting at $101 and $151 respectively.

One of those winners was Quik Change which claimed the QBRED Breeders Classic for two-year-old colts and geldings.

The Garrard family celebrated the win of Regazzo Di Tilly in the three-year-old colts and geldings division, the gelding bred by Chris, trained by Daren, driven by Angus and sired by their stallion Changeover.

The Wayne Graham trained Torque Like Motion secured the three-year-old fillies division with Ever Art for visiting trainer David Thorn securing the two-year-old fillies.

Lancelot Bromac claims a first ever win at Redcliffe after more than 500 career starts


A newcomer to Queensland, Hot And Treacherous secured the Flashing Red Discretionary Handicap for trainer Jack Butler with Nathan Dawson taking the reins.

Chantal Turpin secured a metropolitan quartet of training wins, the four winners coming from just five starters on the night.

Grant Dixon became the first trainer to 100 wins for the season in Queensland when Flo Ryda was successful at Redcliffe on June 8, with the majority of the month’s highlights coming from the peninsula.

Leap To Fame claimed the 2023 Redcliffe Patrons Purse in emphatic fashion, finishing wide off the track the last 800m and pulling clear to a dominant win.

The win left many seasoned Redcliffe afficionados declaring it is the greatest performance they have ever seen around The Triangle.

Kid Montana claimed the 2023 Showcase Series Final, with Lola Weidemann training the first three across the line.

For Real Life went one better in the three-year-old Redcliffe Sales race from the previous season, claiming the Final after finishing as the runner-up in the 2022 two-year-old division.

Adelle hit the right notes to secure the Redcliffe Trotters Cup, giving Jack Butler and Nathan Dawson another feature race for the season.

Cala Jane set a new track record for mares with victory in the Princess of the Bay, shaving 1.5 seconds off the previous best with the 1.53.5 win.

Gotta Go Cullect gave Grant Dixon another Redcliffe Sales Series Final when leading throughout to claim an effortless victory, the win his third as a trainer and fifth as driver in the big money event.

Cheer Leader secured the Redcliffe Oaks, thundering home from back in the pack to knockout the ‘big-two’ Peaceful and Jewel Melody.

Rocknroll Hammer put in a late dive right on the wire to deny Pete McMullen and Aardies Flash a Redcliffe Derby success, with Belinda and Luke McCarthy combining for the win.

Jason Grimson secured a training quinella in the Redcliffe Cup with Loyalist defeating Betterzippit in the country’s biggest standing start feature.

Grimson also landed a rare driving victory when partnering Swayzee to victory in a midweek contest at The Creek, making a statement with the older half-brother of Leap To Fame by breaking the 2138m track record.

Leap To Fame in full flight during the Patrons Purse at Redcliffe