Better Not Fuss causes NT Guineas boilover

Paul Gardener
Trainer Paul Gardner and jockey Casey Hunter combined for an upset win in the $50,000 NT Guineas (1600m) with three-year-old gelding Better Not Fuss on Day 2 of the Alice Springs Turf Club’s Cup Carnival at Pioneer Park on Wednesday.

Paul Gardner has had a highly successful 2023/24 season and currently leads the Alice Springs and Provincial trainers’ premiership.

It only got better for Gardner on Wednesday when he won the two feature races at Pioneer Park on Day 2 of the Alice Springs Cup Carnival.

Better Not Fuss (Casey Hunter), starting at $91, led throughout to seal the $50,000 NT Guineas (1600m), while $2.50 favourite Red Wraith (Sonja Logan) sped away in the home straight to secure the $30,000 The Soldier Lightning (1000m).

Gardner has never won the trainers’ premiership, and the Guineas triumph was his biggest ever win.

Better Not Fuss, a three-year-old, brought little to the Guineas table with his best result after four Alice Springs starts a second over 1100m against his own age group in early February.

Purchased from Townsville trainer Sarah Acornley, wife of former Darwin jockey Carl Spry, where he had one win from 10 starts, the son of Better Than Ready was debuting over 1600m.

A last start sixth over 1400m on March 9 in the final Guineas hit out, Better Not Fuss led by six lengths passing the 800m before holding a three-length advantage at the 200m.

In the end, he held off the fast-finishing pair – Kevin Lamprecht’s Beyond Ready ($4.60) and Kym Healy’s He’s Maverick ($12) – by 0.7 lengths.

Dan Morgan’s $1.50 favourite, Don’t Be Dramatic, who brought impeccable form to the table, threatened turning for home before fading to finish 10 lengths adrift in fifth place.

For Hunter, it was her biggest win in the NT since relocating to Darwin from WA a few years ago.

“The plan was to follow Don’t Be Dramatic, but I was happy when I landed in front and Better Not Fuss travelled so well – I was relieved to get over the line,” she said.

Red Wraith, a four-year-old gelding, had had two previous runs in March for two seconds, and to start the Lightning as favourite with horse racing bookmakers was no surprise.

Settling third, Red Wraith hit top gear at the 400m approaching the final bend, and when Logan found room along the fence, the son of Charm Spirit sped away to win by 5.8 lengths in a time of 56.91.

Whittle’s nine-year-old gelding Liberty Blue ($21), returning for a fifth Alice Springs campaign after a six month spell, was second with Garry Lefoe’s Expert Witness ($3.90), second in last year’s Pioneer Sprint, finished third in the five-horse field.

After a first-up seventh at Pioneer Park last September, Red Wraith won four straight and was placed in his next two starts before finishing sixth over 1050m at Morphettville on December 30.

Meanwhile, the Kerry Petrick-trained Boom Boom Sweet ($2.40) enhanced his Alice Springs Cup prospects with an impressive two-length win over Carrol Hunter’s Desert Lass ($4.60) and Tayarn Halter’s Kippax ($6.50) in open company over 1900m.

Boom Boom Sweet, a seven-year-old gelding by Jakkalberry, was due after three straight seconds, and after sharing the lead turning out of the straight, he was six lengths clear at the 800m, with veteran jockey Paul Denton’s daring tactics paying off.

Darwin apprentice Emma Lines ended the day with a winning double aboard Healy’s stablemates Taipan Tommy ($1.50) and Noble Magnate ($2.40), who was making his NT debut over 1100m (0-64).

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