Group 1 glory would be 'the icing on the cake' for Mick

Michael Bellman is one of the most familiar faces at Victorian racetracks, with more than 26 years and 20,000 drives worth of experience in the sport he loves.

RSN Harness racing
RSN Harness racing Picture: RSN

But despite some major highs amongst 1899 career wins, one burning ambition still remains. And that's a maiden Group 1 triumph.

Bellman has somehow been denied the ultimate success, with Next Thru's head defeat in the Vicbred Super Series 4YO Trotting Entires and Geldings Final of 2018 one of the most vivid near misses for the 43-year-old reinsman.

He gets his next big chance of a breakthrough Group 1 with the Kari Males-trained Sergeant Lou in this Saturday night's New South Wales Derby at Menangle. The son of Sweet Lou is currently a $7 chance for the three-year-old classic behind New Zealand raider and favourite We Walk By Faith.

"We haven't been looked after too well with the barrier draw (nine), but as Gavin (Lang) used to say, it's only a bad draw after the race. We're in it and that's the main thing," Bellman said.

"I still think I've got the right horse. He got home in 25.8 up there the other night (winning the R C Simpson Memorial) and did it in second gear. I still reckon he will run low 25s, and he's going to need to from where he's going to be in the run.

"From what I saw of the (Derby) heats, I still wouldn't want to swap him."

Bellman is clearly driven to win his first Group 1, with the humble and popular member of Victoria's harness racing ranks considering such an achievement to be "the icing on the cake" in a career that began as a 16-year-old boy back in 1997.

"To be known as a Group 1-winning driver, I think that's what everyone sets out to achieve," the Ararat local said.

"It's just a big thrill to be considered good enough to drive a horse like him and to be part of the Miracle Mile carnival."

Bellman said his elite-level drought could be down to a number of factors, including frequently driving for the sport's smaller stables.

"The nice horses I've had in good eras have been dominated by the Mannings, the Purdons or the Stewarts," he said.

"It's no one thing, they're awfully bloody hard to win.

"I've had a fair few goes, but I've never started a Group 1 - I wouldn't have thought - with an odds-on favourite or anything like that.

"There's no one thing to place the blame at, I just haven't been good enough."

Win, lose or draw on Saturday night, Bellman is anticipating many more chances at Group 1 glory with Sergeant Lou.

"He's got that speed, he's got stamina and he's just everything you want in a horse," he said.

"The best part about him is that he's still learning how to race and he's just getting better each time he goes to the races."

Sergeant Lou has won four of his 10 starts, including all three this season.