By Duane Ranger
Al Barnes was rushed to hospital with a heart attack in the small hours of Saturday morning. However, that didn’t stop the durable Tallegalla horseman from watching his two sons drive more than a third of the Albion Park card later that night.
Still in pain and not knowing whether he would undergo surgery or not, Barnes still managed to cast an eye on his sons, Hayden and Brendan, as they nailed three of the eight races at ‘The Creek’.
In fact, the 47-year-old top Queensland trainer managed to congratulate his sons via Racing Queensland’s post-race videos, not long after they won.
“I’m proud of you,” he said.
That was before he was heavily sedated on morphine later that Saturday night.
“I had severe chest pains at 3am this morning (Saturday). Apparently, I have fluid surrounding my heart that is inflamed. I will have more tests tomorrow (Sunday) that will confirm what actions they take surgery or just drainage.
“I’m watching the boys on my phone now and they are giving me a real thrill. I’m very proud of them,” Barnes told Racing Queensland from his hospital bed on race-night.
Asked if he had an insider’s look at death, Barnes replied:
“No mate, no death, too much pain. It was very scary, but I did think my life could have been over. I sent my kids a message and got my partner, Cassie, to call an ambulance. Without Cassie there who knows what would have happened,” Barnes said.
On Sunday Barnes received a hospital visit from his family including is two driving sons.
“The boys just left. I’ve had more attacks today and I’m due to have scans tomorrow (Monday) on the vascular side of things to decide what treatment or operations will happen,” Barnes said.
The younger of the two Barnes brothers, Brendan, said the family was shocked by the scare.
“Dad is the reason Hayden and I are driving today. He has taught us a so much both in and away from the stable. You always think of the worst when you hear that your father has been rushed to hospital.
“But we know how tough Dad is, and Hayden and I were both really proud that he could watch us win and talk about the drives on Saturday night. He’s a real strong fella and a great Dad - I’m sure he will bounce back,” Barnes (Brendan) said.
He drove the smart Jack Butler trained duo of Rock With Sam and Zahven Banner to win races four and seven, while Hayden reined the Wayne Graham trained Dapper to win race three.
They were all were well-driven favourites, who will head through the grades. Butler had this to say about the $1.35 shot, Zahven Banner.
“He’s a possible free-for-aller in the making. I think Luke (McCarthy) wanted to send him up here and then whip him through the grades as quick as he could.
“He’s a very talented pacer, who can still get up on the nickel a bit. He fires up and that’s why we wanted him to lead tonight. Brendan drove him well,” Butler said of the nine-race winner.
Since coming north from Craig Cross’s New South Wales Cobbitty stable, Zahven Banner has now won four of his eight Queensland starts and placed in two others.
The 6-year-old Bettor’s Delight gelding recorded the fastest mile rate of the evening – a slick 1:51.9. He led all the way pacing the 1,660m mobile in 1:55.5. His sectionals were 27.3, 29.5, 27.2, and 27.2.
Zahven Banner has gone 1.1 seconds quicker and both driver and trainer believed with more experience and race-day maturity he will eventually get to free-for-all grade.
“He’s just got that extra gear when you need it. He’s got a lovely gait, and yes he does have a bit of the x-factor,” Barnes (Brendan) said.
Even though the Barnes brothers did their father proud on Saturday night, the driving feat of the evening came from 13-year-old Codi Evans and Jumping Jack Flash.
Young Evans achieved her first ‘Triple Crown’ when winning all three of the Mini Pony Trots that were programmed.
“I want to be a driver one day. My hero is Graham Dwyer. Jumping Jack Flash and I have been racing for three years now. I’m very proud of what he achieved tonight,” Evans said.
Meanwhile in related harness news, Kevin and Kay Seymour, have announced a new media training programme for juniors in January 2020.
“Applications are being called for those who would like to participate. This is the same programme where Brittany Graham was first introduced to the world of sports media with 10 of her colleagues.
“The most successful participants will progress to an advanced media programme and could well be the next face on TV to emerge to promote harness racing,” Seymour said.
He said the course was free, and all expenses were paid by the sponsor, and training starts in Channel 7 Studios in Brisbane.