TAB Constellations Testimonial (Chris Barsby)

Chris Barsby 

Voice of Queensland Harness

As time passes and memories fade, a TAB Constellations never truly forgets anything.


Amen to that.

The 2022 TAB Constellations was memorable in so many ways, on and off track, and it was an improvement on the previous year.

The Albion Park Harness Racing Club in conjunction with Racing Queensland are building something very special, it’s quickly becoming the ‘must attend’ carnival on the Australasian harness racing calendar.

The addition of two Gr.1 features, the Rising Sun and the Golden Girl, have been complete home-run dingers with both events really bolstering the carnival and bringing something unique to the table.

As we know, the Rising Sun, an event for four-year-olds with the added twist of a pair of three-year-old’s added into the mix has quickly made it the most talked feature in the country while any additional feature pacing mares’ events is an immediate bonus for breeders.

But the Rising Sun will face competition next year, the introduction of the Eureka (very similar to the Rising Sun concept) will take place in Sydney at Menangle a few months after the Rising Sun.

What effect will it have on the Rising Sun? Only time will tell.

The winning effort of brilliant Victorian mare Ladies In Red in the Rising Sun was stunning and easily justified the claims of being a generational talent, comparisons with the likes of Tailamade Lombo prior to the running of the event were amped up following her demolition of her male rivals.

Some will say, Ladies In Red was the brightest star shining throughout the 2022 TAB Constellations.

But others that make strong claims for the same title include local three-year-old Leap To Fame following his unbelievable determined staying effort to capture the Gr.1 Queensland Derby on the final night of the carnival.

It was his second blue-riband classic victory this season following his triumph in Sydney earlier this year when dominating his rivals.

The 2023 Rising Sun now beckons.

Make no mistake, Leap To Fame is a complete ‘stud’.

enormous success with the likes of Better Eclipse, Triple Eight and Momentslikethese.

It was their maiden voyage to the Sunshine State; they thrived, raced hard, gained success, and left with wonderful memories plus the promise of a return trip next year.

In essence, that’s what the TAB Constellations is all about.

Sure, with winners comes losers but the spoils this year were spread evenly.

Across 11 Gr.1 features, the host state claimed three while New South Wales and Victoria claimed four apiece.

Taking it a step further, across 25 Group races during the carnival, Queensland and New South Wales claimed ten each while Victoria picked up five.

So, it was a great carnival with some delirious connections on each of the big nights in July.

But there’s always room for improvement.

As they say, sitting still is a pain the bum.

At the same time, we can never be afraid to sit and think awhile.

Staging two-year-old features throughout the carnival might need to be re-jigged given the lack of numbers chasing the substantial prizemoney on offer this year.

The possibility of having some ‘major’ bonuses attached to our feature events is a key option for better exposure – a bonus for a three-year-old to win the Rising Sun/Queensland Derby or a bonus for a four-year-old to win the Rising Sun/Blacks A Fake.

Even a Sunshine Sprint/Blacks A Fake bonus should be considered.

Introducing a State of Origin race is another idea while a tri-club heat/final with some twists is another possibility.

The immense driving talent should be investigated for a feature event, having the best of the best competing on the biggest stage is another option to explore with gambling partners.

And introducing those ‘star’ drivers to the public could be great for punter confidence.

Obviously, zero Kiwi representation this year was a major setback following the previous year but given the amendments to the New Zealand calendar explains plenty.

But we must be proactive in getting the best talent back across the ditch.

Having Greg O’Connor as our ‘Master of Ceremonies’ was a significant step forward, his professionalism coupled with his infectious love of the sport should be heightened for years to come.

The amount on New Zealand owners and breeders on hand this year should not be understated.

And we’ll continue to attract representation from Perth, having most major cities at Albion Park is another way to nationalize the TAB Constellations.

The biggest crowd was from the final night, Blacks A Fake race night, and historically, it always is but maybe a better attempt of public awareness can be undertaken to strengthen other nights.

The social aspect was great with plenty of positive feedback but, next year could be bigger and better again with added additions to the calendar.

A big congratulations to all Albion Park Directors – Brad Steele, Greg Mitchell, Bethany Browne, Peter Bell, and Nathan Hand.

And a big thanks to Scott Steele, Kate Butt and the track staff who went above and beyond.

Above all, congratulations to all winners.

The world is our oyster.

Overall, the 2022 TAB Constellations was another tremendous success with the promise the 2023 edition will be better again.