BENDIGO hobby trainer Anthony Barber has only one horse in work, but his lone galloper is showing an ability to get the job done on the picnic circuit.
McGill - an eight-year-old gelding - has been showing plenty of consistency on racecourses across Victoria, compiling three wins and a third from six starts this picnic season.
The obvious highlight was the much-travelled galloper's dead-heat win in last month's $6000 Yea Cup, when ridden by experienced Bendigo jockey Craig Kirkpatrick.
Barber hopes to add a win or two before the 2019-20 picnic season comes to a close at Swifts Creek on April 12, with the $6000 St Patrick's Cup (2140m) at Yea on February 23 just one potential target.
The 57-year-old trainer has mixed the gelding's racing this season between the professional and picnic circuits, and would dearly love to add a non-picnic win with McGill.
"I bought him last year. He had never had a win in Victoria on the provincials, he won them all in Queensland. Perhaps they're a little bit weaker there, I don't know," Barber said.
"I'm just out to have a bit of fun with him. If he wins a provincial race, good, if picnics are all he can win, we'll take the wins.
"I would say he can break through (for a provincial win). Had he have been ridden a bit more positive (at Hanging Rock on Australia Day) he could have finished a lot closer."
Barber is a rarity among the horse training profession, one of a select few participants to have trained both trotters and gallopers.
He might also be the only current trainer to be a licensed driving instructor.
A source of pride for Barber, his Yea Cup success was matched by the achievements of his learner drivers at the Bendigo All Pass Driving School.
"No one has failed the driving test now for two weeks, which has been nice," he said in the days after McGill's run at Hanging Rock.
"You don't know who you are getting (in the car) ... they come from Melbourne a bit, just to do the driving test.
"You meet them, go for a spin and then they do the test.
"I enjoy the instructing, you can pick and choose your own hours. It definitely has its rewards."
Barber has never been far from horses all his life.
His harness racing career, which stretched from 2002-12, yielded 60 winners and 150 placings from about 500 starters, based initially at Globe Derby and later at Bendigo.
His gallops career has netted 12 winners from 87 starters since 2015, with a modest four horses - True Brave, Frisky No More, Salaqua and McGill.
Barber said his nearly 12 hours a day driving school commitments prevented him from having more than one horse at a time, though that wasn't always the case.
"I did have two (together) at one stage going back about 18 months-two years ago," he said.
"Normally I only have time for one or two.
"When I was doing my harness racing I used to have a few more - three or four.
"It's a bit easier sitting in the cart yourself, you're not relying on track riders.
"You do it quicker. You're at home, you go out and do it and then you're done.
"With gallopers, you have to take them to the track and put the rider on them. It all takes time."
Still an avid follower of both forms of horse racing, Barber professed a particular fondness for the picnic races, where he insisted victories are just as hard-earned as they at any other race meeting.
"They are actually a bit harder to win than people think ... you win a couple (of races) and you see how much weight they put on you," he said.
"He (McGill) started at about 66.5kg and now he's up to 70.5.
"It starts to get really tough to win when they hit that 70kg mark."
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