Leap To Fame crowned Horse of the Year

Leap To Fame has capped off a record-breaking season, taking home tonight’s top accolade at the 2022 Queensland Harness Awards in Brisbane.

The Grant Dixon-trained and driven pacer was crowned the Queensland Harness Horse of the Year, beating out fellow finalists Blacksadance and Turn It Up.

A historic season saw the colt become just the fourth horse behind Paleface Adios, Courage Under Fire and Captain Joy to claim the Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria Derby treble, with victory at Melton in October sealing the trifecta.

From 12 starts throughout the season, he claimed nine wins and three placings, along with $451,231 in prize money and four Group 1 triumphs, with the Derby victories alongside the NSW Breeders Challenge C&G 3YO Final.

The unheralded season also saw him named the Harness Racing Australia 3YO Pacing Colt/Gelding of the Year earlier this year.

The accolades kept on coming for Leap To Fame, also awarded the Queensland 3YO Pacer of the Year, while Grant Dixon enjoyed more success with Racy Roxy claiming the Filly or Mare of the Year title.

The Trent Dawson-trained and owned For Real Life took out the 2YO Pacer of the Year, following his all-the-way triumph in the $100,000 Group 1 QBRED Triad Final for colts and geldings.

Elsewhere, Majestic Harry was crowned Trotter of the Year after claiming six victories from 23 starts in 2022, headlined by his fairytale fifth position in the Inter Dominion Trotting Final for trainer Stephanie Graham.

“The 2022 harness racing season has once again shone a light on Queensland’s equine and human heroes, headlined by one of the nation’s best pacers in Leap To Fame,” Racing Minister Grace Grace said.

“What he has achieved this year cannot be understated, and will no doubt go down as one of the greatest individual seasons we have seen by a Queensland pacer.

“We are immensely proud to see our Sunshine State stars represented on the national stage as well, with Pete McMullen again bestowed as the top driver in the country, with Nathan Dawson also on the podium in third position.

“I congratulate all of tonight’s deserved winners, and look forward to what is already another outstanding harness racing season in 2023.”

Peter McMullen made it back-to-back victories in the Queensland Driver of the Year category, notching 266 wins over the 2022 season, to go with a second straight Australian Drivers’ title.

Meanwhile, Jack Butler has continued his ascension up the training ranks in recent years, claiming his first ever Queensland Trainer of the Year title after preparing 163 winners in 2022 at a strike rate of 17%.

Young gun Angus Garrard was named the Queensland Concession Driver of the Year for the second consecutive season following another standout year that saw the 19-year-old finish third in the State Drivers Premiership standings with 160 wins – a third centurion tally in as many years.

This year’s ceremony also saw the introduction of a new award, as Giuditta Crisci was crowned the inaugural Queensland Off-The-Track Retrainer of the Year.

Since the inception of the QOTT Acknowledged Retrainers Program in January 2022, Giuditta has successfully retrained and rehomed 14 standardbreds from industry into a range of rewarding and varied post-racing career pathways.

Finally, the evening also saw champion pacer Henry Luca and legendary industry participant Vic Frost both inducted into the Queensland Harness Racing Hall of Fame.

Henry Luca will be remembered as one of the state’s most consistent pacers, notching up 53 victories and 41 placings from only 153 starts, headlined by his 1987 Group 1 Queensland Pacing Championship.

Vic Frost has prepared over 1,000 winners since data was collated, with half of those registered during his time racing on Queensland tracks.

The multiple Group 1 winner took home a raft of titles including the 1970 Miracle Mile, Australian Derby, Australian and Queensland Pacing Championships, as well as the 1992 Inter Dominion with superstar Westburn Grant.

“There are no more deserving Hall of Fame inductees than both Vic Frost and Henry Luca,” RQ CEO Brendan Parnell said.

“Now at 82 years of age, Vic is still training winners with his partner Gail Geeson, and will forever be remembered as the man behind champions like Westburn Grant, Lucky Creed and Chandon.

“Importantly, he has also played a huge role in developing many young drivers including the likes of Luke McCarthy, Shane Graham, and Matt Elkins.

“Meanwhile, Henry Luca was a mainstay on Queensland tracks throughout the 80s, with an unbelievable strike rate that saw him win one in every three races he contested.”

In total, more than 50 awards of distinction were presented at this evening’s Awards.