By Duane Ranger
Narissa McMullen knows that she wouldn’t be both the Australasian Junior and Australian
Lady Drivers champion, had it not been for her late grandfather, John McMullen.
That is why the 24-year-old said she was enormously proud to be the only member of the McMullen family to line up in the inaugural Group Three $31,000 J.C. McMullen Pace at Albion Park on Saturday night.
The race was formerly known as the Premier's Cup.
The man known as ‘Hollywood’ McMullen, and was renowned for his familiar red jacket and white-sashed silks, died on September 20 last year aged 81.
McMullen Senior was an original ‘Queensland Harness Racing Hall-of-Fame’ inductee, who won multiple metropolitan training and driving premierships at Albion Park.
His grand-daughter said he made a huge impact on harness racing in the Sunshine State for more than half a century. As well as being an astute trainer and driver, Mr McMullen was also an active exporter of horses to the United States.
“We owe it all to him really. He got Dad (John) involved in the sport and now Dad has four children who all drive. It was really sad to see my grandfather pass away last year.
“I remember Dad and I used to go and see him and look at all his amazing photos and listen to all of his racing nostalgia when he lived close to Albion Park. It’s such an honour to drive in this race, even more so lining up the first time it will be run, McMullen (Narissa) said.
McMullen, who has three drives on Saturday, has commented about the trio below. She said she got to drive the Mark Jones and Aaron Goadsby trained Barrett through Alberton trainer, Stephen Cini.
“Stephen and Aaron are good friends and I managed to get on Barrett through Stephen. I’m very grateful for that because he’s a nice horse who has huge speed over 200 metres.
“It’s just the second time I will have driven him. I know he went well in New Zealand for Mark Jones, so I’m very fortunate to be able to sit behind him.
“Like I said it means a lot to be there for my grandfather in what will be a very special race. I will certainly be thinking of him when I’m out there,” McMullen said.
Her grandfather campaigned many good horses over the years including Viking Reign, Alba Wings, and Toliver Bye Bye. All-up he trained 734 winners form 4,952 starters ($2.3m). He also saluted the judge 509 times ($1.5m) as a driver.
The ‘J C McMullen’, for the C2 to C5 pacers, which is race seven, will be run over the 2,138m mobile at 7.40pm.
Here’s what McMullen had to say about her three drives (with trainer, draw, and opening odds):
Race 1: The Narissa McMullen trained and driven TOM ME GUN (12) $5.50 – "He’s going really well after his last win (Albion Park - June 28). I gave him a lil freshener and he trialled real well last week finishing just behind the talented Princess Tiffany, who won in 1:51. I am real happy with the way he is going, but I really wanted a front-row draw. Twelve is not ideal, but some of his best races have been when he’s saved for one last go at them. That’s what I’ll probably have to do. Save him and wait.”
Race 6: The Stephen Cini trained AIR TIME (8) $5: "His run last start was unbelievable. He was last at the 800m and then was forced to travel four-wide when they came home in 55 and quicker. He hit the line real strong and another metre or two I think he might have won. He would be the unluckiest horse in Queensland in his last few starts. I hope the one horse holds up, which I think he can, because this horse will go well in the trail. There is speed in the race though. I still definitely think he can win. He would be my best winning chance of the three on Saturday.”
Race 7: The Mark Jones & Aaron Goadsby trained BARRETT (3) $14 – "He’s a really nice drive. He’s a lovely sit-and-sprint type horse, who didn’t get a drag into the race last time when they ran a quick time. He has a lethal sprint if saved for the right run. This is just my second time behind him, and I think he will be better for that Redcliffe run. Albion Park suits him better, because he did win first-up on the track last month. If he gets a nice trip he should figure right in the finish."