By Duane Ranger
Brendan Barnes will drive a hot favourite in the last race at Albion Park tomorrow night, but believes he has an even better winning prospect five races earlier.
Barnes will steer the former Craig Cross (Cobbitty, NSW) and now Jack Butler (Logan Village) trained Zahven Banner, from gate six at ‘The Creek’, but believes Sabrage, also trained by Butler, is his best winning chance from barrier three in the third event.
Both geldings are $1.50 and $3 favourites respectively.
“Don’t get me wrong Zahven Banner (6) is a very serious racehorse and should whip through the grades to Free-For-All class, but Sabrage (3) is in a weaker qualifier and has drawn much better.
“They can both win from in front or the parked position, but because Zahven Banner has drawn one on the outside of the front-line, I think I will have to use him up more to get to the front, whereas Sabrage should get to the top there a lot easier,” Barnes said.
“If Zahven Banner drew one, two, or three, he’d just win. In saying that he’s still a huge chance,” he added.
Twenty-two-year-old Barnes has six drives at the Albion Park Harness Racing Club’s eight-race programme on Saturday – all for his boss, Butler.
He said he had made a good start to the season thanks to Butler’s strong team.
“A lot of our horses are going really well at the moment. They are all on good marks, and all going well hopefully I’ll be speaking to you a couple of times on Saturday night, Duane.”
Barnes has had 178 drives so far this season for 26 wins, (seven in the city), 61 placings, and has netted $195,192 in purses.
Last season he had 770 drives, bagged 109 winners (24 in the city), recorded 195 placings, and banked $767,736 in stakes.
Here’s what he had to say about his half-dozen drives tomorrow night (with trainer, draw, form, and opening odds):
Race 2: The Jack Butler trained LIVING AGAIN (4) 32152 ($6 second favourite). “Live Or Die gelding, who is going real well at the minute. Gate four should not be too much of a worry for him, because he possesses good gate speed and a good turn of foot. However, he is a better sit-and-sprinter, and we will just have to see what happens when the arm releases. With a bit of luck, he’s sure to go well. If we do drop back, he will need the speed right on. He’s definitely an each-way chance either way.”
Race 3: The Jack Butler trained SABRAGE (3) 547f1 ($3 favourite). “Mach Three gelding who is a really good chance here - my best of the night. I’m not sure if he will lead or sit parked, but either way he can win. However, I won’t want to stir him up too early if he does lead because he does like to go for it. Win bet.
Race 4: The Jack Butler trained PAY ME INTEREST (5) 86667 ($12). Six-year-old mare who will need a bit of luck from five, but the smaller field helps. She recorded some nice sectionals last week, and if the speed is on, she will hit the long strongly.”
Race 6: The Jack Butler trained CLOVER MAC (7) 21693 ($14). “He’s drawn awkwardly on the outside of the front line in what is a pretty strong trot race. Empire Bay is a nice trotter, and will be tough to beat here. There’s also another couple of nice ones as well. The ratings ensured this fella’s tough draw, but it is a distance race and if the speed is on, he can get some of it. A capable trotter who only needs things to go his way to feature.”
Race 7: The Jack Butler trained SAMS THE MASTER (5) 56611 ($6). “He’s a class act and this is an interesting race. We will go forward and look to lead, if not sit parked. He can win from both positions, because he’s so tough. He broke the track record at Redcliffe recently and then trialled in 1:51.1 when winning at Albion Park two Tuesdays ago (by 20.7 metres). He’s also a very serious pacer, and if he gets to the front, he’s going to take all sorts of beating.”
Race 8: The Jack Butler trained ZAHVEN BANNER (6) 31431 ($1.50 favourite). “This is quite a tricky draw for this fella because there’s quite a bit of speed underneath him. I will find the front eventually, but it all depends on how much petrol I use to get there. But we all know how smart he is. He cruised home with a very slick 26.8 final quarter last week. That’s when I realised just how much acceleration he possesses. That opened my eyes to him and really impressed me. He should be winning this, simply because he has immense speed. Two starts ago he also went really well from a bad draw (9). Both times he was cruising. Win bet.”