Harness racing year in review: part two

Speak The Truth after a victory.

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



The Constellations Carnival lit up the Australian harness racing scene in July and the first Group race of the carnival saw Speak The Truth claim another feature win in the Queensland Sun.

It was a big win sitting parked to hold off Future Assured and Tims A Trooper and all three four-year-old’s would go on to contest the Inter Dominion later in the year.

Jewel Melody continued her affinity with feature race success at ‘The Creek’ when securing the South East Oaks, narrowly defeating Tin Tin Jo.

Nathan Turnbull claimed his first ever Albion Park feature when his three-year-old colt On Deadline was successful in the South East Derby, defeating the odds-on favourite Naturally Gifted.

After two rounds of heats, the Darrell Alexander Trotting Championship was decided when the Shane Graham-trained Jaccka Watch was able to lead throughout with Adam Sanderson taking the reins on the five-year-old.

Nathan Dawson continued his rampage in a week that saw him claim 16 winners that included his 200th for the season when guiding Uptown Beachgirl to victory in the Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes.

The hot week also saw Dawson drive a quintet at ‘The Creek’ in a midweek meeting, his third of the year and set another new milestone.

No other Queensland driver has claimed five winners at a meeting three times in a season, with those to have achieved the feat twice in a season being the late Bill Dixon, Grant Dixon (twice), Pete McMullen and Lola Weidemann.

Leap To Fame secured his biggest Albion Park victory to date in his career when equalling the track record over the 2138 metre journey that Swayzee had set just three weeks prior.

The record came in The Rising Sun in one of the most dominant four-year-old performances witnessed at ‘The Creek’ when claiming a big victory after sitting parked outside My Ultimate Ronnie.

Backing up one week later, Leap To Fame showed versatility to power home off the speed to claim an open company Group 1 triumph in the Sunshine Sprint, showing a devastating close out stop the clock in 1.50.2 for the mile.

Speak The Truth added more success to his resume when claiming the inaugural The Hayden, Queensland’s newest race, with slots purchased in auction earlier in the year.

The Shannon Price-trained gelding securing his spot in The Eureka, the victor gaining Racing Queensland’s slot in the $2 million Menangle feature.

The inaugural running of The Great Square saw James Rattray secure a big win with London To A Brick, a square gaiter he also trains.

Amore Vita claimed another Group 1 for Chris Alford when securing The Golden Girl with a narrow defeat over the Jack Butler-trained Manhattan.

Stopping the clock in 1.50.5, the time broke the Albion Park mare’s track record which had belonged to Uptown Beachgirl.

Chantal Turpin was the second Queensland trainer to 100 wins for the season, her 10th successive season of reaching the century.

The meteoric rise of Swayzee continued when Cam Hart and Jason Grimson combined to claim their second successive Blacks A Fake Championship.

Swayzee held off a determined Leap To Fame, who was travelling strongly until a wheel issue severely hampered his chances, with Grant Dixon unable to drive the gelding out and doing well just to stay in the bike.

Father-and-son combination, Wayne and Shane Graham, combined to claim the Queensland Oaks when Torque Like Motion rattled home in the closing stages to claim the Group 1 event.

The Lost Storm decimated his rivals in the Queensland Derby, levelling his rivals with a 54.2 second closing half in front to claim the easiest of victories.

Brad Hewitt claimed Group 1 glory in the Queensland Trotters Cup when his five-year-old mare Majestic Trio finished hard down the outside to set a new mares record at 2138 metres.


The big season for ‘Team Raboki’ – headed under the guidance of Shannon Price – continued with a Menangle treble, claiming two heats of the Nutrien Equine Classic courtesy of Sure Thing Captain, Force Full and the treble completed with Makara claiming victory.

Warming up for the World Driving Championships in Europe, Pete McMullen took a metropolitan driving treble to reach 150 winners for the 2023 season.

After securing the Breeders Classic with Quik Change, Graham Dwyer claimed a maiden Group 1 victory when the Changeover gelding finished best to grab the big QBRED double with victory in the Triad Final.

With brother Pete campaigning in Europe, Narissa McMullen picked up the plum drive aboard Rylee Rhayne Bow in the two-year-old Fillies Triad Final and converted the opportunity into success to claim her first pacing Group 1 victory.

For Real Life added the three-year-old Triad Final to his two-year-old victory from the previous season with a strong performance to overcome a wide second line barrier, defeating Free Thinker and the race favourite, Apollo Dreamz.

Bernie Hewitt’s star filly Jewel Melody also claimed the two and three-year-old double with her win in the three-year-old fillies Triad, defeating the odds-on favourite Torque Like Motion.

Speak The Truth added another feature to a great season with the four-year-old entires and gelding Triad, while Racy Roxy claimed the mare’s division for trainer and driver Grant Dixon.

Alanah Richardson secured the biggest win of her training career when Dextrous Dexter claimed the three-year-old colts and geldings trotting Triad Final, while husband Adam, who drove the gelding to victory, also secured his biggest driving success with the win.

Pete McMullen represented Australia with distinction in the World Drivers Championship in Europe, his first European victory coming at Mons in Belgium.

McMullen had worked his way up the WDC leaderboard to be in second place heading into the last day of the competition at Trabrennbahn Mariendorf in Berlin, but had to settle for sixth overall.

Top driver Pete McMullen.


Leap To Fame was huge in defeat in the inaugural running of The Eureka, taking a world record performance from Encipher to snatch victory from the Queensland star.

The world’s richest harness race over the Menangle 2400 metres was a brutal contest and Leap To Fame showed his strength after sitting parked and only going under narrowly.

Speak The truth ran on well from back in the field to finish fifth for ‘Team Raboki’ and driver Adam Sanderson.

Darrel Graham wound back the clock, claiming a winning double as both a trainer and driver, giving Graham his first metro driving double since June 2017, while it was his first metro training double since April of 2021.

The EKKA Show Finals were held at Redcliffe.

That allowed four keenly contested Finals to be held with winners Aunty Frances, Delightful Rainbow, Hollywood Rooki and Subtle Chay.

Frankie Ferocious proved to be exactly that when establishing a new three-year old class record over the mile at ‘The Creek’, stopping the clock in a sizzling 1.51.0.

Jack Butler reached 100 training wins for the year, the third Queensland trainer to the century, with Butler claiming his eighth successive century.

The milestone and record breaking run of Nathan Dawson did not look like slowing down, as he reached 300 wins for the season, becoming just the second Queensland driver after Pete McMullen to reach a triple century.

Brendan Barnes reached triple figures, bringing up his 100th driving victory and not long after, Leonard Cain joined him as a 2023 centurion.

Gait With Grace claimed the Springboard Series for two-year-old trotters with Not As Promised claiming the three-year-old title.

Grant Dixon continued the centurion theme, reaching 100 wins for 2023, having reached triple figures every year this century.

Leading trainer Jack Butler.


Don Ross Snr and Dr Joh Mammino were awarded life membership of the Albion Park Harness Racing Club.

Graham Dwyer reached 100 wins for the season when Luvbite was successful, his third century season.

Leap To Fame went agonisingly close in another Group 1 Grand Circuit event when narrowly beaten in the Victoria Cup.

Chantal Turpin trained a metropolitan quintet, reaching the achievement for the first time in her career and became the first Queensland trainer in 2023 to achieve the feat.

The last Queensland trainer to achieve the feat was Vicki Rasmussen in December of 2021.

Second verse, same as the first, Nathan Dawson added another achievement to a massive season when claiming the Australian Driving Championships at Launceston.

With the night cut short by electrical storms, Dawson had done enough in the completed races to be awarded the title and joins Queenslanders Pete McMullen and Grant Dixon as previous winners.

Rounding out the month in style, Dawson claimed an interstate Group 1, partnering with the Graham Dwyer-trained Not As Promised.

It was Dwyer’s second Group 1 of the season and the win was the first time a Queensland-trained square gaiter has claimed success in the feature.

The Ross Family, long time clerks of the Queensland harness tracks, unsaddle their ponies for the last time, with the long-serving team of red coats overseeing their final meeting.


Aardies Flash was successful in the third running of the Peak of The Creek, Pete McMullen and Chantal Turpin combining for their second win in the feature.

Future Assured continued his rise up the four-year-old ranks by defeating Leap To Fame in the Be Good Johnny Sprint.

Leap To Fame rounded out his Inter Dominion campaign when toying with rivals in the Queensland Cup, closing out with a 26.5 second quarter in scoring a 13.9 metre victory and claiming the track record outright with his 1.51.7 win.

Angus Garrard claimed his first BOTRA Young Drivers Championship having previously finished second and third in past seasons.

Garrard defeated Taleah McMullen with Nathan Rothwell competing in his first series finishing in third.

Narissa McMullen joined the 100 club, bringing up the driving century at ‘The Creek’ aboard her own runner Last Time Joe, a big effort considering the time spent sidelined earlier in the season after a fall at Redcliffe.

Not As Promised claimed a second Group 1 trotting feature when scoring in the Breeders Crown at Melton, with Nathan Dawson and Graham Dwyer combining once again.

The win was the first in a Breeders Crown Final by a Queensland-trained horse since Tip Your Hat and Fleur De Lil both won their respective three-year-old pacing divisions in 2007.

Grant Dixon reached 200 training wins for the season, with a stranglehold on the state trainers title.

Leap To Fame during the Inter Dominion series.


A total of 22 years since it was last in Brisbane and the Inter Dominion returned to ‘The Creek’ under the traditional format of three qualifying heats and Final in a two-week period.

The opening night saw Queensland trainers claim a pair of heats with Leap To Fame and Future Assured both claiming maximum points.

Round two heats saw more Queensland success when Speak The Truth was able to lead throughout, while Leap To Fame, Just Believe and Ollivici remained undefeated in their respective divisions.

By the final round of heats, it was only the pre-post favourites of each division that remained undefeated with Leap To Fame and Just Believe having swept all three rounds of heats.

Taleah McMullen reached 500 career winners when guiding Rancho Man to victory at Marburg for her Dad, John.

With three heats of the Inter Regional Championship, Not The Kingswood, Jilliby Jackpot and Sii Sempre Tilly were able to win the respective heats for the Final to be held on ID Final night.

However, it was the Peter Greig-trained Beef City Blaze that was able to claim the series, darting through on the passing lane to score.

The huge season for Leap To Fame reached its crescendo at ‘The Creek’, scoring a dominant victory in the Inter Dominion Grand Final.

The big crowd on hand was cheering the local hero as he thundered down the stretch for an emphatic victory.

Just Believe claimed his second successive series sweep, the talented trotter far too god for his rivals as Greg Sugars led him home to an effortless victory despite sitting parked.

Angus Garrard went agonisingly close to securing a big Young Drivers double when leading into the last heat of the series, his drive finished at the rear, allowing New South Wales drive Josh Gallagher to claim a countback victory over Garrard.

Nathan Dawson became the first Queenslander and just the second Australian driver to reach 400 wins when bringing up the milestone at Redcliffe aboard the Donny Smith-trained Mach Daddy.

Peter Greig continued his big season, reaching 100 training wins for the first time in his career.

Lola Weidemann claimed the last race of the year, Gracenava arriving in the closing stages to give Lola 50 training wins for 2023 and close out the season.

Just Believe was dominant throughout the Inter Dominion series in Brisbane.