Barnes hopes to send Gee Up Neddy out on top

Evergreen trotter Gee Up Neddy is ready for the next stage of his life.

Despite still racing at the top of his game in the Sunshine State, the 11-year-old veteran is set to bow out from the sport after just over 150 career starts.

Gee Up Neddy is trained, leased and driven by Hayden Barnes.

And, after going so close in numerous feature races across his tenure as a race horse, the 27-year-old horseman is keen to give his old stager a Group level victory on the way out.

He lines up in Saturday evening’s Trotters Christmas Cup – which is raced as a Group 3 – in what is likely to be his second last effort.

Barnes and partner Bree Evans – who is also a harness racing driver and trainer – have a retirement plan already sorted for their treasured square gaiter.

“Hopefully he can win this Group 3 race and go out that way,” Barnes said.

“Bree and I have three acres in Lowood, so he is going to live in the farm with us.”

Hayden Barnes and evergreen trotter Gee Up Neddy in action.

The 20-time career winner is likely to have one more start following Saturday night’s staying assignment.

It would be fitting if Gee Up Neddy could claim a black-type race on the way out as he has gone so close on numerous occasions.

In November of 2020, he ran into second in the Group 2 Darrell Alexander Memorial Trotting Championship Final.

It was a similar scenario the year prior.

Starting as the favourite – when the race was classed as a Group 1 – Gee Up Neddy was beaten a half head with Barnes in the sulky by Wee Man Trouble.

Just last year, the veteran gelding finished second in the Group 3 Trotters Marathon at Albion Park.

After running in the money on several occasions in feature races, Barnes is eager to finish on a high note with his trotter.

He steps up to his preferred 2647 metre distance for the first time in his last handful of starts on Saturday, which Barnes believes will be crucial.

“The distance is perfect for him, he has been waiting for a 2647 metre race and I would love to step nicely and get forward as early as I can,” Barnes said.

“It is hard to know where you are going to end up in a race like this when there is so many horses in it.

“The distance is ideal.

“He has always got pipped on the line in big races or just has quite not got there so for him to win one at 11 years of age, that would be good.”

Gee Up Neddy started his racing journey in New Zealand before heading to NSW, then on to Queensland to his first trainer in the Sunshine State – Jack Butler – before it was then on to Barnes.

Hayden Barnes and evergreen trotter Gee Up Neddy.

Barnes was in the bike for the majority of occasions when Butler was training before he would eventually take over.

The son of Raffaello Ambrosio has bounced back strongly after a lean 2021 campaign.

He did not win last year – running in the minor money on six occasions – before grabbing three victories and another half dozen top three finishes this campaign.

Despite his advanced age, the trainer and driver says his old trotter is going as well as ever.

“He does not seem like he is 11, he acts like a young horse most of the time,” Barnes said.

“He just loves racing and doing the routine.

“He has exceeded all expectations from when I first got him, he was doing a little bit wrong and I thought I would get a trotter to have a play around with.

“He has gone well above my expectations.”

Gee Up Neddy has been kept fresh for Saturday’s contest, having a quick jog every day in the lead in.

Hayden Barnes and evergreen trotter Gee Up Neddy in action.

“He has always gone a bit ordinary over the colder months in winter, he never looks any good,” Barnes said.

“I reckon that is why he goes off, so I try and keep him in the summer and he has turned it around this year.

“He always looks a lot better in the warm and racing a lot better.”

The Trotters Christmas Cup headlines the last Albion Park meeting of the TAB Queensland Summer Harness Racing Season in 2022.

The TAB Queensland Summer Harness Racing Season wraps up on Wednesday evening at The Triangle with the annual running of the Redcliffe Christmas Cup.  

By Jordan Gerrans