Al Barnes and partner Cassie Saunders are hoping they can ressurect the career of Lincoln’s Command.

What’s this? Now Al’s working his magic on ‘retired’ galloper Lincoln’s Command

A month ago he was going to be retired.

On Saturday night he will line up in a race at the Toowoomba night gallops.

And the man who will saddle him up is none other than Al Barnes, who is more used to hitching sulkies up to pacers as Lincoln Farms’ harness trainer in Queensland.

That’s the unlikely story of Lincoln’s Command, who was shaping up as Lincoln Farms’ next staying find until he seemingly succumbed to stifle problems in Sydney last month.

When Barnes read on Lincoln Farms’ website about the injury and Randwick trainer John Sargent’s recommendation that he be retired, he was immediately hooked.

“I thought that’s right up my alley. I love fixing problems - it’s what I enjoy and what I’m good at - and I thought I might be able to get the horse back for Lincoln Farms.”

So on Saturday night when his son Hayden takes Lincoln Farms’ pacer Vasari to Albion Park in Brisbane, Barnes will be 125km down the highway in Toowoomba, handing the reins on Lincoln’s Command to his mate, little known bush jockey Damion McIntosh, before the third race.

Lincoln’s Command winning his last start in New Zealand at Awapuni on May 30. PHOTO: Peter Rubery/Race Images.Lincoln’s Command winning his last start in New Zealand at Awapuni on May 30. PHOTO: Peter Rubery/Race Images.In the barely three weeks Barnes has had Lincoln’s Command at his Marburg stable he’s worked his magic on the six-year-old, harness juju which even Sargent acknowledged some trotting trainers possessed.

And while Sydney vets advised the horse’s only real hope was to have surgery on his stifle joint, Barnes has simply treated him like others in his stable, two of which he says are still winning with worse stifle injuries.

Rather than an expensive operation to clean up the joint, Barnes used a trick he learned while training a team in Canada - blistering the joint with Palmolive dishwashing liquid to stimulate the flow of blood to the area.

And Lincoln’s Command is now just on the same maintenance schedule as some of his pacers, getting injections into the stifle to keep the joint lubricated.

And most important of all, he’s trained out of a big yard. “You can’t box horses with bad stifles, they have to be moving to keep themselves free. Sydney trainers don’t have that opportunity as their horses are in little stables all the time.

Toowoomba has an uphill rise from the 600 metre mark.Toowoomba has an uphill rise from the 600 metre mark.“He’s as bright as a button which is actually what he was like when he first arrived - you wouldn’t have known there was anything wrong with him.

“He pulled up sore after that trial he had in Sydney but two days later he was fine.

“And it’s the same after he gallops. The next day he’s a bit stiff and sore - he obviously has some arthritis - but 24 to 36 hours later he’s good again.

“We take him in to Ipswich twice a week and he’s had four or five gallops now. We haven’t given him a sprint up, we’ve just been doing long and strong.

“He’s in good enough order to be competitive, he’s fit and well, but obviously whatever he does on Saturday night he’ll improve on.”

Gallopers Cassie’s passion

As well as giving Barnes a new challenge, which is what he thrives on, he sees Lincoln’s Command as the vehicle to renew his partner Cassie’s love of racing.

“The gallopers are Cassie’s passion. She’s the brains with them. She used to drive at the trots and I’m hoping that she’ll get her licence to train and take him over. We’ve already got two gallopers here, one recovering from a fractured fetlock.”

Damion McIntosh has a career record of 33 wins from 436 rides. He has had just 25 rides in the last 12 months for one winner.Damion McIntosh has a career record of 33 wins from 436 rides. He has had just 25 rides in the last 12 months for one winner.Barnes is also relishing the chance to give his mate Damion a decent ride.

“He’s very experienced but doesn’t get many opportunities so he’s hungry.

“And he listens. The better jockeys don’t respect you and don’t listen because they think you’re a nobody.

“I know Damion will listen and look after the horse.

“I’ll leave it up to him how he rides the horse - he’ll just have to see how he jumps. But we’ve got blinkers on him so hopefully he jumps from gate three and either leads or can sit quiet just in behind the speed.”

While Saturday night’s race is over 1625 metres, Barnes says at Toowoomba that’s more like an 1800 metre race.

“There’s a hill from the 600 until they flatten up the straight so it will be a good test for him.”

While no form expert on the local gallopers, Barnes says there are bound to be a couple of handy ones, although the quality of horses at Toowoomba won’t be overly strong.

“And if he gets to race in town it’s really good money - $60,000 to the winner. And they’re not strong races like in Sydney and Melbourne.

“I just hope the horse can go well for John and Lynne Street.”

Barnes says he’s grateful to Lincoln Farms’ owners for transforming his life with the pacers they’ve sent to Queensland - between them Northview Hustler, Trojan Banner, Lincoln’s Girl and Vasari have won 17 races in recent months.

Barnes says Vasari will have his work cut out on Saturday night at Albion Park, drawn the second row in a tough field, but he needs only a little luck to earn a cheque.

“He’s fit and well and he tries hard.”

The race features in-form former Kiwis Tennyson Bromac and Bill Haley.

Lincoln’s Command races at 8.30pm NZ time at Toowomba on Saturday night.Lincoln’s Command races at 8.30pm NZ time at Toowomba on Saturday night.

Vasari races at 11.37pm NZ time at Albion Park on Saturday night.Vasari races at 11.37pm NZ time at Albion Park on Saturday night.

Our runners this week: How our trainers rate them

Lisa Latta

Lisa’s comments

Saturday at New Plymouth

Race 7: Platinum Volos

“It’s not an ideal race for him and I’m a bit worried about the 1400 metres. We’ll have to ride him back last and look for runs through them to give him the chance to see the distance out.”

Al Barnes

Al’s comments

Saturday at Kilcoy

Race 5: Lincoln’s Command
4.59pm NZ time

“He looks fantastic and his work has been good. Kilcoy is a very tight track and you need to be up front so we’ll be going foreward even from the wide draw. We rode him back last time and it didn’t work as he’s too one-paced.”