Uptown Beachgirl dreaming big

Who is the best pacing mare in the Sunshine State?

It’s a fair and legitimate question. Because times are constantly changing, pacing mares are either being shopped to North America or whisked away to stud for the next phase of their careers.

Only recently, Racing Queensland and the Albion Park Harness Racing Club introduced a new race to the calendar, the Group 1 Golden Girl, staged during the Constellations in July.

Automatically, it’s the biggest event for mares staged in the state and it’s been a welcome addition to the carnival.

Who could forget the local mare Jeradas Delight scoring a gigantic upset claiming the inaugural edition back in 2021 while Town Echo scored last year, again lighting up the tote board?

Interestingly, both winners are now retired and at stud.

In fact, half the field that contested last year’s feature have either been retired or sold overseas.

Obviously, quality mares have a shelf-life and can’t race forever so their time in the sun can’t and doesn’t last forever.

So, back to the original question. Who is the best pacing mare in the state as we draw closer to the third running of the Group 1 Golden Girl?

Who can repel the interstate and New Zealand raiders?

Is it Uptown Beachgirl?

Can the Donny and Maureen Smith-prepared mare add her name to the Roll of Honour and claim the biggest mares feature staged in Queensland?

On current form, the four-year-old mare is a clear choice.

Uptown Beachgirl is gearing up for a big Queensland Constellations Carnival.

But she’s no ‘Johnny come lately’ type story because this has been building for quite some time with several outstanding performances.

Since arriving at the Knight Street stables of the Smith’s, Uptown Beachgirl has quietly gone about her business with precision and finesse.

Beaten in her local debut at Redcliffe back on June 23 last year when a runner-up behind Golden Sand as the punters elect, since then the big striding mare has continued to evolve and strengthen.

At the end of last season, Uptown Beachgirl showcased her improvement and liking for the Queensland style of racing with a victory in the Group 3 $31,768 3YO Filles Classic during the Summer Carnival at Albion Park on November 11, defeating some talented local fillies in fast time.

Uptown Beachgirl was immediately spelled following her feature race triumph.

So, during her first campaign Uptown Beachgirl won five of her 16 starts with four minor placings plus finishing fourth three times.

“We liked her from the start. The first time I drove Jordan (Uptown Beachgirl) in trackwork I thought to myself ‘what a lovely big powerful and athletic filly’. She’s a quite a robust mare who carries weight well,” Donny Smith explained.

“Looking back, she really raced like a big baby during her first campaign. She would wait for her rivals and many victories during that initial campaign were by very small margins.

“The owners knocked back a significant offer from North American interests following her feature race win, but decided to race her on and I think the best is still yet to come.”

Uptown Beachgirl is raced by Jason Gaffney along with Mark, Greg and Bailey Hartwig, all of whom are based at the town of Forbes, in the western districts of New South Wales.

They have enjoyed good success, with the Smiths racing the likes of Roll With Rocky, Katacha Man and now Uptown Beachgirl.

Gaffney is a licensed trainer in his own right and originally started with Uptown Beachgirl, preparing her for her first 16 starts (two wins) before switching her to Queensland.

Bred by Gordon and June Turner, Uptown Beachgirl is by now Queensland-based stallion A Rocknroll Dance from the Somebeachsomewhere mare Hannas Beach Girl, a maiden performer from 17 starts before heading to stud.

Hannas Beach Girl produced a filly by Betterthancheddar (unraced) before producing Uptown Beachgirl.

Sadly, Uptown Beachgirl is the final foal from Hannas Beach Girl.

Interestingly Uptown Beachgirl hails from a famous Queensland pedigree, the New Arrival family that includes the likes of Nudge, It Is I, Desdon Murruffy, Shania Blue, Laser Edge, Four Starzzz Forsa, La Speranza, Figaro, Corelli, Manrico, Il Tenore, Armida and Caesar Augustus among others.

Returning on February 24 at her home track of Redcliffe, Uptown Beachgirl thrashed her rivals while working throughout in a time of 1:55.5.

Uptown Beachgirl is raced by Jason Gaffney along with Mark, Greg and Bailey Hartwig.

Second-up, Uptown Beachgirl ventured to Albion Park and led throughout for another comfortable victory in a time of 1:55.0 before returning the following week.

Despite rising in grade, Uptown Beachgirl delivered a stunning effort when successful in a PB time of 1:51.0 for the 1660m event.

All three wins were dominant!

That winning time catapulted Uptown Beachgirl to the top pf the leaderboard because that is the fastest winning time recorded by a mare at the famed Breakfast Creek oval.

So, the fastest pacers (both sexes) are progeny of A Rocknroll Dance—Blacksadance (1:49.2) and Uptown Beachgirl (1:51).

“When Jordy came back, she was about 45kg heavier and when she raced first-up at Redcliffe, she was still about 20kg heavier compared to her last start in that feature,” Smith said.

“She came back big but it’s good to have a few extra kilograms to work with and we’re slowly stripping the weight off her.

“Absolutely she’s gone up another level this preparation.

“She’s more switched on now and the driver has more command and control, which is making a big difference.

“I’m sure she has 1.51 or 1.50 time written all over her and she should do it basically on her ear.

“The Group 1 Golden Girl and the Group 2 Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes are the two obvious targets during the Constellations.

“I think she can go as good as any mare in Australia right now, to be honest. I don’t think I would swap her for any mare in Australia.”

There’s also some symmetry with Uptown Beachgirl and her co-owner Bailey Hartwig, a professional rugby league player.

Hartwig is regularly spotted at the racetrack cheering on his pacers.

Hartwig is contracted to Wynnum-Manly Seagulls in the Queensland Cup competition and plays in the forward pack.

Obviously, he has aspirations of playing the NRL in the future.

So, just like Uptown Beachgirl, Hartwig is hopefully aiming for the big time.

As they say in the classics, you’ve got to dream big to win big.