The phone call that changed Brendan Barnes’ life

It was the phone call that changed leading Queensland driver Brendan Barnes’ life.

The 25-year-old reinsman was at Redcliffe’s The Triangle track earlier this year and he answered a call from a close mate of his, Jamie Durnberger from Summit Bloodstock.

The Group 1-winning driver can pick up the tale from there.

“It was a bit unexpected and it came through Jamie as we have been close for some time and he is well connected over there in the USA,” Barnes said.

“He rang me on Redcliffe Cup night earlier in the year and I answered the phone at the races and he told me it was about to be the phone call that would change my life.

“He said that I better drive well on that night because the Americans were watching me and they wanted me to come over and work there.

“It blossomed from there and it has been back and forth in the talks for a while.

“Jamie was over there about six weeks ago and speaking to Erv Miller and his clients and they wanted me to come over to the USA as soon as I could go.”

Redcliffe Gold Cup was not Barnes’ greatest night in the bike – grabbing one winner and two minor placings across the program – but he must have already done enough to impress the Americans.

The top driver has gone past the 100 winners milestone in each of his last four campaigns in the sulky.

Barnes – third for winners on the drivers tally in the Sunshine State this season – is set to chase his dreams to the USA early next year with the aim of eventually moving across in the back end of 2023.

He is set to depart in January of 2023 for a short stint to meet trainer Erv Miller and his staff, build connections and devise a plan around if a move to American to drive on a permanent basis is feasible.

While the son of fellow Queensland participant Alistair Barnes is keen to make the move on a full-time basis, he has a few hurdles to jump on the visa front first.

When he does head over for a short stint early next year, he will be able to drive in races in some states with a working holiday visa while in other states he will not be permitted to get in the sulky on race day.

While champion New Zealand-born driver Dexter Dunn and NSW-born brothers Andy and Todd McCarthy have made their mark on USA racing in the New Jersey area, the initial plan for Barnes is to head to Indiana.

Erv Miller has one of the largest stables in North America with around 300 horses in work in multiple cities.

Barnes’ first point of call will be Hoosier Park racetrack, which is located in Anderson, Indiana.

He is then keen to get across to Yonkers in his initial visit to the USA to build relationships in that area of the country.

Brendan’s father Alistair also has a few contacts in the country, which Brendan is likely to utilise.

“I have had a really good job offer and I will definitely head over for a look for at least two weeks or up to two months to have a look,” Barnes said.

“It is just going to come down if it is all possible and if it worth it all with the visa process.

“My ultimate goal would be to move there by late 2023, if it was all going to be possible.

“It would be massive if it could all happen.”

Dunn and the McCarthys have taken American standardbred racing by storm in recent years and the USA industry certainly now have their eyes on expanding their Australian representation.

“It is really good prize money, you are always travelling and, on the road, keeping busy, but I am really enjoying it,” Todd McCarthy told Racing Queensland last year.

Reinsmen in the USA will on some days drive at two different tracks across one day as well as not being as involved in the preparation of horses as they are in Queensland.

“It is a different world to us here,” Barnes said.

“Here we are taking horses to the races in the car and then drive them.

“Over there you do not touch a horse until you are about to start the race.”

Barnes added to his season tally of 134 victories at Redcliffe on Wednesday night and has another strong book of drives on Thursday at Albion Park across the day meeting.

Barnes has also ramped up his own training pursuits this season, having career high numbers for winners and starters in his own name in 2022.

By Jordan Gerrans