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Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators

Ten years ago, Narrogin horseman Neville Thornton and his son Jeremy purchased young broodmare Lady In Luck for $450 at a dispersal sale. She was in foal to American stallion Barnett Hanover.

They named the resultant progeny Just Barney, and then they thought their luck was out when the mare died. But Just Barney, now a tall, rangy nine-year-old gelding has given them wonderful satisfaction over many years — and he boosted his earnings to $110,215 when, on a rare visit to Gloucester Park, he charged home from last at the 600m to score a decisive victory in the 2130m Simmonds Steel Pace on Friday night.    

The win gave the 48-year-old Jeremy Thornton his first city training success — with only his twelfth starter at Gloucester Park, all being with Just Barney.

A former successful country reinsman, Thornton (who runs a carpet business in Narrogin) was convinced that Friday was going to prove his lucky night when he discovered that Just Barney, who was going to have his 149TH start, had been allocated stall No. 149 in the birdcage.

It certainly proved to be a happy omen. Just Barney, an $11.90 chance from the No. 5 barrier, was eased to the rear in the field of nine by 20-year-old Emily Suvaljko, and the task of the old gelding, who was last at the 600m, appeared hopeless.

“Just Barney copped interference in the back straight,” said Thornton. “And Emily had a wall of horses in front of her before she was able to weave her way through. She is a ripper driver; one of the best I’ve seen.”

Just Barney unwound a spirited burst which took him to the front 100m from the post on his way to a convincing victory over Rocknroll Whitby at a 1.58.8 rate.

His only previous top three finish at Gloucester Park was his second to brilliant mare Balcatherine over 1730 in May 2020. His 149 starts have produced 14 wins and 44 placings.

The Thorntons have always preferred racing on country tracks, and they proudly say that Just Barney is fondly known as the Narrogin and Wagin King whose most significant triumphs have been in the 2019 Wagin Cup and 2021 Merredin Cup in Kellerberrin.

His initial Gloucester Park victory now stands alongside six wins at Wagin, three each at Narrogin and Albany and one at Kellerberrin.

The Thorntons enjoyed considerable success with Back Alley Boy, who earned $82,674 from 14 wins and 27 placings from 117 starts.

“Back Alley Boy was a good horse, but Just Barney is better; he is more tractable and more versatile,” said a proud Jeremy Thornton.