Meaghan McNee on her own path in harness racing

The pathway for participants from the mini trotters’ ranks when they reach their late teenage years is usually to progress through to the senior harness driving level.

While Redcliffe’s Meaghan McNee has travelled that direction throughout her high school years, she is going to take a slight detour.

Instead of following Pete McMullen, Chantal Turpin, Angus Garrard and Lachie Manzelmann, among others, from the mini trotters to the professional driving ranks, Meaghan is aiming to establish herself as a trainer in the sport.

Meaghan is one of a handful of Sunshine State youngsters who will represent the Queensland Junior Harness Racing Association at the 2022 Inter Dominion in Victoria later this year.

The smiling Meaghan is keen to follow her father Mark into the training ranks when she has graduated from the junior level.

“Training is certainly what I want to do, I’ll leave the driving to the people that are doing it now,” Meaghan said with a laugh.

“I often tell Dad that I want to go into training race horses.

Meaghan McNee.

“I have been getting more involved with the horses since I finished high school, up early in the morning helping out.

“I love helping out with the training side.”

The mini trotters have been an institution in Queensland for decades.

The 17-year-old Meaghan learned the ropes of the harness game in her younger years from her older sister Madison.

Madison often went interstate racing with her pony, with Meaghan regularly at the races showing her support.

The younger McNee has travelled south of the border to Tamworth in NSW over the years and will be able to experience one of the biggest occasions in harness racing next month.

“It gives them a bit of a buzz because it is different from racing at an agricultural show or something like that,” Mark said.

“It is entirely different.

“Most of the kids have been brought up around horses so many of them have been around them forever and they have progressed from there.”

While Madison did not follow her father into racing on a permanent basis, Mark thinks his younger daughter may.

“Meaghan really enjoys it and has stuck with the horses,” Mark said.

“She just likes everything about racing, if it is not her pony then she is working the big horses.

“She will go to the races for me – if I cannot make it – she will take the horses to the track.

Rockstar Oreo and Luke Thirgood.

“There is no holding Meaghan back, she is capable of doing everything that is needed.”

Fellow Redcliffe-based budding driver Luke Thirgood is also on the way to Victoria.

He competed on Blacks A Fake night earlier this year at Albion Park and is again looking forward to being apart of a large event.

“It was pretty cool with the big crowd,” Thirgood said.

Teenager Thirgood will compete in the Shetlands division, driving Rockstar Oreo.

Thirgood has been driving the horse since the start of last year.

“He is pretty quick,” Thirgood said.

Racing in the same division as Thirgood, Meaghan will present with her old mate Playingbytherules.

Known as Cyclone around the McNee stables, he has been with the family for many years.

Cyclone is almost as old as Meaghan at 14 years of age and she describes him as the “boss of the stable” with her tongue in her cheek.

Meaghan started racing him three years ago, as he doubles as her sisters pony that she takes to shows.

Mark McNee.

“I used to hate him but now I really love him,” Meaghan said.

“I used to be so scared of him as he used to always want to bite me.

“But, now I just love him and love racing him.

“I had another pony before Cyclone but I saw how fast he was and keen going so I decided to I wanted to step up with him.

“It has gone on from there.”

While Cyclone is a favourite around the barn, Meaghan says he always finds a way to get beaten on race day.

As well as Meaghan and Thirgood, Thomas Dixon, Jai Dixon and Briana Davis will also represent the Sunshine State.

The handful could be the next generation of harness racing stars in Queensland.

“Over the years, we have had a lot great drivers go from the mini trotters go through the ranks,” Mark said.

“It is a stepping stone and many of the drivers you see today have done it.

“To send five kids away, that is a big number compared to previous years at this kind of event.”

The Queensland representatives on Inter Dominion night have been aided by the three clubs in the state financially to help cover the costs that come with travelling horses and drivers to Victoria.


Queensland representatives for this year’s Inter Dominion:


Mj Bob – Thomas Dixon


Rockstar Oreo – Luke Thirgood

Playingbytherules – Meaghan McNee


Alfie’s Over – Jai Dixon

TooGoodForYou – Briana Davis


By Jordan Gerrans