The likes of the rich QBred scheme and Winter Constellations Carnival have put ‘down under’ harness racing on notice, making the state the envy of its neighbours and attracting interstate and overseas interest from trainers, owners, and breeders alike.
Now the state has caught the attention of North America, with the owners of the fifth-fastest stallion of all time sending their champion son of Captaintreacherous to the Sunshine State.
After negotiating with multiple breeding farms in Australia, the exciting Ohio stallion Catch The Fire is set to become a dual hemisphere prospect and will spend his winters down under, breeding at Somerset Farms in Queensland, Australia.
Established and operational in 2012 by Pete and Chantal McMullen, Somerset Farms has quickly developed into one of Queensland’s finest harness racing training centres, situated perfectly in-between Brisbane and Toowoomba.
The McMullen name is synonymous with harness racing. Pete and Chantal were raised in the industry, graduating from mini-trotting ranks to now being recognised as one of the country’s leading husband-and-wife partnerships.
Pete is the son of respected horseman John and Grandson of ‘Hall of Famer” J.C Hollywood McMullen, while Chantal is the daughter of another respected trainer and current Albion Park track curator Tony Turpin.
“It’s an amazing opportunity and pretty incredible prospect to be standing at stud, not only for Queensland, but all of Australasia,” said McMullen.
“This has been something I have dreamt of since I was quite young, and to be able to embrace it in partnership with my wife and really try and push the whole breed in Queensland and harness racing in general forward is really exciting.
“I think Queensland is going ahead in leaps and bounds, and we have the best bonus system in the country. With this horse and his progeny being Qbred eligible for the wonderful bonus, the support we anticipate him receiving will be out of this world,” he said.
Sugar Valley Farms principal Joe McLead was equally over the moon at the opportunity for his resident stallion and where he was headed.
“We are excited to be able to do this venture with Somerset Farms, and we are very excited about the opportunity for Catch The Fire.
“It’s exciting what Peter McMullen is doing down there, and if he can continue in the breeding market with what he has done as a trainer and driver, I think it will be a really successful endeavour.
“The stallion is a pleasure to have here on the farm, he is really easy to handle, and his progeny are all very adept at being very intelligent and impressive individuals,” said McLead.
Syndicate partner Greg Luther was equally excited about the opportunity.
“We worked out a phenomenal agreement to allow Catch The Fire to breed 150 mares in Australia and unlimited mares in New Zealand each year while breeding a full book of 140 in Ohio.
“Affectionately known as ‘Mr. 1:46’, he is the only sire in recent memory to have an increased stud fee for each of his first three years standing at stud in Ohio. Now he can take his speed, heart, and Captaintreacherous pedigree Down Under during our off-season in the US.
“My partner Charlie Taylor and I are very excited about the massive interest we’ve had in him down under and are thrilled he is heading to Somerset Farms,” he said.
Catch The Fire was a unique prospect, having raced successfully from age two to five. In his juvenile season, he won a leg and the final of the rich Kentucky Sires Stakes Series, where he paced 1:49.4 to win the $250,000 feature whilst also finishing third in the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes Final.
At three, he won the Delvin Miller Adios Pace, where he took out the $375,000 final in an unbelievable time of 1:49.3 on a sloppy track. He was an outstanding winner of his elimination in the Little Brown Jug, pacing the same time of 1:49.3 before finishing third in the final.
At four, he was the winner of the $325,000 Dan Patch Stakes at Hoosier Park, where he became harness racing’s newest millionaire, stopping the clock in a sizzling 1:48.1. That same season, he lowered his lifetime mark, winning his first Sam McKee Memorial at the Meadowlands in 1:47.2.
“He was always just an impressive individual on the racetrack who carried himself well and got better as time passed. Every year he got faster, a trait of a horse with a desire to be good,” said McLead.
Catch The Fire was allowed to return as a five-year-old, where he could defend his crown in the $278,000 Sam McKee Memorial.
He defended the title in exhilarating fashion, pacing 1:46.4 for the mile, becoming the eighth equal fastest pacer of all time, making him the track record holder for entires at the world’s most famous harness racing track. His doing this while serving his second book of mares makes it even more phenomenal.
“The first year we had him (2021), when he bred and raced, we limited his book to 85 mares. Not many horses could assume stallion duties and race 19 times and hit the board in 14 of those starts winning $618,000,” said McLead.
Catch The Fire retired with lifetime earnings of $1,494,434 and a record of 18 wins, nine seconds and 12 third placings from 56 lifetime starts.
He retires as the fastest son of Captaintreacherous at stud to date and has the distinction of pacing 1:49 or better on virtually every size track, a credit to the phenomenal gait he possessed and something only a handful of pacers ever achieved at the grand circuit level.
“He was a very versatile horse who could adapt to whatever situation was needed within a race. He shows it in his attitude as well. He is a very docile individual, and as he gets older, he really understands what he is doing in the shed,” said McLead.
“Breeders are going to love the way he looks. He is on the smaller side but has really furnished into a well-bodied stallion in the years I have had him here on the farm. He is a solid individual with great conformation who really is the perfect package from a physical standpoint.
“The yearlings that we are offering at the sales this year from his first crop and even the babies who have been foaled this year by him all have a lot of leg under them. They are great-bodied and really carry on the conformation traits of Catch The Fire himself and the Somebeachsomewhere and Captaintreacherous line, which we have all come to expect.
“I am really confident about how he will be received in the fall when we offer his first crop at auction,” he said.
Catch The Fire is bred on what all signs point to being the new ‘golden cross,’ being by the heir to the throne in Captaintreacherous, and out of the Bettor’s Delight mare, Dream Out Loud p3,1:55.4.
She is the dam of six foals for four winners, with Catch The Fire the obvious standout. She does, however, have two progeny race timed in 1:52 or better, with both Captains Place (Captaintreacherous) and Absolute Intent (Well Said) being stakes performed six-figure earners.
Dream Out Loud’s half-sister Life’sliltreasure (Life Sign) is the dam of a millionaire herself in Tara Hill Stud resident stallion, Control The Moment (Well Said), with their own dam Treasure For Trish (Jate Lobell) being the dam of eight winners from 10 foals.
Astute pedigree buffs will note Treasure For Trish’s half-sister Summer Child (No Nukes) has also produced the tail lines of a current grand circuit performer juggling stud duties and racing much the same way as Catch The Fire did in Jimmy Freight (Sportswriter).
There is plenty to be excited about in the pedigree and performance that are the hallmarks of any great stallion prospect. And despite the fact that Catch The Fire will reside in Queensland, all down-under breeders looking to upgrade their bloodlines have an excellent opportunity to do so in this exceptional son of boom sire, Captaintreacherous.
Catch The Fire will ship ‘down under’ in July and begin breeding year-round in both hemispheres.
“I think Queensland will be excited to have a stallion like this standing in the state. The jury is still out on what the sons of Captaintreacherous are going to be like, but this is a stallion line that has proven itself to extend in a very short space of time.
“I have little doubt from the reports I have heard about other sons of ‘the Captain’ that they are going to do a job also, and what I have seen with my own eyes, I am really excited to see what Catch The Fire is going to do,” said McLead