Day At The Track

A sexy surprise for Barnes at Bathurst

03:27 PM 10 Aug 2015 NZST
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Trainer-driver Peter Barnes with his mare Sorta Sexy at Bathurst last Friday
Trainer-driver Peter Barnes with his mare Sorta Sexy at Bathurst last Friday

When Peter Barnes saw his number go up in first place as he came back to scale after the third race at Bathurst last Friday, his shocked, delight and a colourful exclamation suggested it might be a special moment.

As he calmed down, he explained that it was his first race start with Sorta Sexy ($4.40), a four-year-old Modern Art daughter he’d purchased a few weeks earlier, after she’d run a number of placings this season for her former trainer Billy Evans.

So, it was a first start win, and a little excitement was quite in order.

But the level of excitement was better understood when he next explained that his entire team consisted of this one horse, and that his previous driving success had been back in April 2010, at Fairfield, with Winsome Win.

Back in the barn after the race, Sorta Sexy was sporting the dress rug won by that previous winner.

Barnes trains on a 500m track on his seven- acre farm near the Mount Piper Power Station, just outside Lithgow, and says the only time his horses do genuine fast work is when they go the trials or races.

After a long career at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, retirement allows him plenty of time to prepare his team of just one, and Sorta Sexy will definitely lack for nothing in care and attention.

A check on the computer later indicates that this was not only Peter’s first winning drive in five years, but just his second win ever (he trained another horse Williewa Duplicity to a number of wins, but didn’t drive it). Now, that post-race excitement was all the more understandable!

How to describe a likeable figure, whose win was popular with everyone on track? “Hobbyist” is much too official-sounding, and “battler” can sound patronizing. That leaves us, instead, with the bare facts, which suit perfectly. Let’s just call Peter a “winning trainer-driver.”

Dubbo owners Jeff and Nea Costello might have endured a much briefer losing run, barely 21 races, but the all-the-way win of Happy To Go NZ ($1.90 favourite) in a 3C0-3C1 fillies sprint, was most welcome nonetheless.

The Costellos, who have developed a nice band of broodmares in recent years, were disappointed when several mares failed to go in foal to Bettors Delight, so they purchased the three-year-old Bettors daughter for racing and future breeding.

A first-up second at Bathurst a fortnight earlier, and a victim of interference at Parkes at her next start, she was never in danger of defeat here, and will likely look for that second 3YO win before season’s end.

Season’s end is looking very up-beat for her trainer, who registered win number 195 with this win and extended it to 196 when son Nathan reined Intransit ($2.10 favourite) to win a C1-C2 later in the night.

A double at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night took him within two of his 200 goal, and four winners at Sunday’s Dubbo meeting put the issue well beyond doubt, and extended his lead in a tight NSW Trainers’ Premiership, with just three weeks to go.

Other winners at the meeting were:

*Mister Bigshot ($7.00, Chris/Anthony Frisby), after enjoying a one-one trail in a 2260 metres C0-C1, and maintaining good recent form following a spell since returning from Queensland;

*Flyin Crusa NZ ($15.90, Geoff Read/Scott Hewitt), edged out favourite Miss Nickels (David Hewitt) to bring off a Goulburn quinella, despite pulling off a shoe during the preliminary;

*Regal Ashes ($3.10, Peter Schiller/Brad Hewitt), getting up in the last stride in a 2YO sprint, her second win in succession at Bathurst, and highly impressive after sprinting hard from the 700 metres point;

*Allnight Raid ($3.10 favourite, Bernie Hewitt/ Mat Rue), expertly positioned in the one-one from an awkward barrier draw, and a welcome change of fortune after a frustrating season of poor draws and racing luck;

*Ellmer Hanover NZ ($3.30, David/Brad Hewitt), completed a driving double for Brad, and a good day for the Southern Tablelands “raiders”, with Canberra Raiders star Jarrod Croker enjoying the first-up Aussie win of the syndicate horse.

Bathurst will race again this coming Friday night.

by Terry Neil

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