By Duane Ranger
Two of the state’s top reinsmen, Brendan Barnes and Paul Diebert, celebrated personal milestones at Albion Park on Saturday night.
Twenty-three-year-old Barnes notched up his 400th career win behind the Jack Butler trained Sabrage in the sixth event – the AQWA Band Five Pace.
An hour earlier, 25-year-old Diebert, drove his 100th winner of the season in the Pryde’s Easifeed Pace thanks to the Alex Cain trained Kurahaupo Gambler in the fourth of the night.
Both South Brisbane based horsemen said that they can now put their respective milestones behind them and get on with winning more races this season.
“Ironically, I’ve probably been a bit quiet this season compared to last season, but this is a big thrill to get this 400 off my back,” Barnes said.
“I think my highlights so far this season have been winning a few Group 3’s (Alta Jerome, Match Point, & Freyburg) at Menangle.
“Also getting beaten a nose at Menangle in the Group One Breeders Challenge race on a 100-1 outsider named Left Tenant was memorable.”
His 400th ride was a pearlier, taking the $2.80 favourite Sabrage (3) to the front soon after the start of the 1,660m mobile.
Barnes then controlled the race as he liked, leading all the way to win by a neck from last start winner, Midnight Man.
The seven-year-old Mach Three gelding recorded a 1:54.5 mile rate as he notched up win number 17 from his 120th start.
Barnes has only been driving for seven seasons, with last year his best claiming 109 winners and $767,738 in prize money.
This season currently sits at 60 races for $458,245.
“I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season - driving Hectorjayjay will be a thrill and he’s likely to make his comeback on Saturday night,” Barnes said.
“Jack’s team is going real well at the moment, so there’s quite a bit to look forward to.”
Meanwhile, Diebert said he was just pleased to ‘get the monkey off his back’.
“This last month has taken forever, it’s been a bit baron of late,” Diebert said.
“I think I might have had only two or three winners in the last four or so weeks, plus one yesterday at Redcliffe (Patchwork Jet).
“And I’ve been copping it too, my mates and work colleagues have been getting into me.
“Talk about the nervous 90s, the season started great and then I hit the wall a bit - I’m just glad it’s all behind me.”
Diebert had the race won from the start behind Kurahaupo Gambler, taking the Bettor’s Delight gelding to the front from barrier four.
“I knew I had to be in front of Major Generaljujon if I wanted to win,” Diebert said.
“I had to lead or it would have been tough to salute, I know Major Generaljujon well and I know what he can do - no lead no win I’m sure.”
It was the first time that Diebert has notched the ton, however he recalls that he should have got there in his very first season of driving.
“That was about seven or eight years ago when I drove 80-odd winners, but was put out for a few months,” Diebert said.
“I’m just rapt to get this first 100 behind me and I’d like to think I can keep driving 100 winners for the next 10 years, but who knows.
“All I know is that I am very happy at the Dixons, none of this would have ever have happened had it not been for Grant and Trista (Dixon).
“They have given me so many drives, and I tried to give it my best shot while Trista was out having a baby - I’m now the third-string driver in the stable, and I’m happy with that.
“Who wouldn’t be, they are wonderful employers who have the best possible facilities.
“Grant is also the best trainers in Australia, and has been for a while, I’m very grateful.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s leading trainer in Dixon trained half the card on Saturday night with four of the eight winners.
The Dixons won with Special Reserve in race three, Sheriff Jujon in the fifth, Dark Energy in race seven, and Cherrys The Best in the last of the night.
Dixon now leads the national training premiership with 174 wins for $1.5 million in prize money – 27 more than Victoria’s Emma Stewart for $1.7 million.
All drivers wore black armbands at Saturday’s meeting, with the flag was at half-mast out of respect to the late Victorian horseman Gavin Lang, who passed away last Friday aged 61.