By Duane Ranger.
Ill health, bad draws and general frustration have plagued both Northview Hustler and his trainer Al Barnes this season, but you can’t help but think that’s all about to change at Redcliffe Paceway on Saturday night.
The tough black gelding showed how classy he was last week when resuming from a three month-spell with a gutsy 1.4 metre second placing behind Colt Thirty One in the $14,000 Open Pace.
Northview Hustler drew four that night, and tomorrow night he will start from one on the 10m handicap (9) in the 13-strong $25,000 Redcliffe Gold Cup.
“We just haven’t had the ‘rub of the green’ since he came over here in May last year,” Barnes said.
“He’s gone 53 and 54 every week from bad draws, but he has still won five races here and seven in New Zealand ($186,159).
“I was delighted with his run last week considering he went around with an abnormally high heart rate.
“We measured it and it was 108 (beats per minute), in peak fitness I’d like to have him at 85.
“He’s still a few runs away from his best, but he’s a nice stepper and Redcliffe doesn’t bother him.
“If Hayden can follow through Invincible Loxton or poke through somewhere after the start, he can lead and win.”
Barnes’ oldest son Hayden gets the drive back on Northview Hustler after being suspended last week.
“Hayden knows the horse inside and out and he doesn’t need instructions, but in saying that Peter (McMullen) drove him a treat last week,” Barnes said.
“He pinged him away brilliantly from the start, it was a very nice run considering his fitness.”
The 47-year-old, like his stable star, has been through the wars of late.
In early January he suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night.
If his partner Cassie Saunders had not been there, it could have easily been a different story.
“I’m fine now but I do have off days and it seems to be when I put in long hours,” Barnes said.
“The Hustler is hopefully over his injury woes as well, he’s been injured for the last nine months with a tendon strain, a haemorrhage of the fetlock, and when he went down to the Miracle Mile he suffered from infections in both front feet.
“It hasn’t been easy, but he’s well worth persevering with because he is the best horse I’ve trained and is way above average.
“I’ve always thought he could win a big one, he only needs luck.
“I’ve never won a Redcliffe Gold Cup before, that would be a very nice way to cap off a Saturday night – and I know he can.”
Northview Hustler flew from gate four last Saturday night at Albion Park and almost led throughout.
That was until the current Queensland Horse-of-the-Year (colt Thirty One) reeled him with 50 metres of the 2,138m mobile remaining.
Northview Hustler opened up paying $7 last week; tomorrow night he’s the $3.60 loose favourite in an even field which sees seven of the 13 pacers paying $10 or less.
“The 2,613m stand won’t bother him and neither will his handicap, it’s a big field and there’s no Colt Thirty One this week,” Barnes said.
“If he steps cleanly he should go close, because he’s on the improve.”
Northview Hustler is Barnes’ only runner at the 10-strong race-card and said he would continue to race him throughout the winter and spring, with the Group 1 Blacks A Fake Pace the main target in December.
“He hasn’t had much racing of late and so long as he stays sound I’ll keep lining him up every few weeks until the Summer Carnival,” Barnes said.
Northview Hustler has a large contingent of Lincoln farms (Pukekohe) owners back in New Zealand, and was bred by Murdoch Bloodstock.
26 June 2020