By Duane Ranger
Both Northview Hustler and his trainer, Al Barnes, won’t be firing on all cylinders at Albion Park tomorrow night, but the former is desperate to produce some good form heading into his New South Wales campaign.
“I’m about 70 per cent right and the good horse is about 85 to 90 per cent fit. I’m still getting chest pains and have some minor blockages. I’ve been lacking energy and running out of breath as well,” Barnes said.
“I have good days and bad days,” he added.
The Tallegalla horseman was rushed to hospital in the wee hours of Saturday January 4 with a heart attack. Prompt action from his partner, Cassie, saved his life.
Now just over a month later, Barnes is back at the track again and keen to see his stable star, Northview Hustler, shine in tomorrow night’s feature pace – the $14,540 Remembering The Emcee Open.
“I wouldn’t be back so soon had it not been from Cassie and the tremendous help from my family. They have all rallied around and gone out of their way for me.
“I’m working about 12 and Whataboyz and Double Or Nothing (R2 tomorrow) have won in my colours since the heart attack. I can’t thank my family and friends enough,” the 47-year-old horseman said.
Northview Hustler is having his second start back this campaign since winning an Open Pace at the same venue on September 28.
The good looking black 6-year-old then finished sixth in Watch Pulp Fiction’s victory here last Saturday. Barnes said the Bettor’s Delight gelding was badly in need of that run.
His outside draw of seven tomorrow ensured his $21 opening odds price tag.
“Whatever he does on Saturday, he will be better for the run. We badly need form heading into the Newcastle Mile (February 21), which then leads us into the Miracle Mile (March 7), so we will be definitely trying.
“But both us and Colt Thirty One are going to find it almost impossible to get around the field if they go 1:51 out in front, then a final 27 quarter. He will be running on, but it’s not going to be easy from gate seven,” Barnes said.
“He’s a courageous little horse though and if the gaps do present themselves at the right time and he can get some luck in the running, he could go close – but ‘luck’ is the word,” Barnes said.
He said Northview Hustler would head straight to Luke McCarthy’s Sydney barn first thing on Sunday morning.
“He’s quite a fast horse and I think the big Menangle track will suit him down to the ground. I think he’s more than capable of running a 25 quarter on the big roomy 400m home straight.
“He’s always been a class act since his New Zealand days, when he’s on top of his game he’s absolute class. But he’s going to really have to guts it out if he’s going to get anywhere near them on Saturday. In saying that he’s been a lot sharper this week,” Barnes said.
“I still believe that when he’s spot on he’s the second best pacer in Queensland,” he added.
Barnes has two horses lining up at ‘The Creek’ tomorrow night. Both will be driven by his eldest son, Hayden. Here’s what he had to say about his other pacer:
Race 2: DOUBLE OR NOTHING (5) 71442 ($7 third favourite): “He’s a brilliant front-running horse who can really fire off the gate. He drew four here on Tuesday and went down by a neck when they ran a 1:53 mile rate. If he is fast off the arm again and can either lead or get handy he can at least place again - even though this is a strong field and a step up. He’s so honest and rarely misses a cheque. I have about a dozen in work, most of them young’uns and this fella would be in the top three or four. He’s so consistent and that’s why we like him. I’d like to think he can lead, but he does have some quick horses inside of him. I think he can place again.”