Trainers Lisa Whittle and Phil Cole, as well as apprentice jockey Jade Hampson, captured all the headlines during last Sunday’s meeting at Alice Springs.
The trio had every right to celebrate after ending the day with doubles.
Whittle, who has struck form at the pointy end of the 2021/22 campaign, looked on as stablemates Desert Lass (Paul Denton) and Zelring (Jade Hampson) produced stirring victories with late bursts in the home straight.
With three meetings left in the Red Centre before the end of the current season, Whittle has now joined Terry Gillett as the leading trainer in the Alice Springs premiership with 28 wins.
The Top End’s Cole (29), sitting second behind Gary Clarke (42) in the Darwin premiership standings, enjoyed back-to-back wins at Pioneer Park when in-form pair Colhoun (Wayne Davis) and Sedona (Jade Hampson) saluted after both found the lead entering home straight.
And then there’s 18-year-old Hampson, fresh from a win aboard the Cole-trained Kronos in Darwin the previous day, who achieved yet another rare feat after starting her riding career in April.
Back on April 14, Hampson booted home her first winner in her first ever race when she piloted Pointo’s Pick home for Darwin trainer Tayarn Halter at Fannie Bay.
The teenager was making her first appearance as a jockey at Pioneer Park on the weekend, so to win a race at your first meeting in Darwin and Alice Springs is definitely a feather in Hampson’s cap.
That now makes it six wins in just 20 starts, which also includes three seconds and three thirds, for Hampson and her 4kg claim now drops to a 3kg claim after five wins – she was allowed to ride out on Sunday with the 4kg claim before saluting on Zelring.
The ever-consistent Desert Lass ($11) was returning after a last-start fifth in the Alice Springs Cup on May 1 after stepping up to the 2000m for the first time.
After settling mid-field from gate 10 on Sunday, the mare finished strongly against open company over 1200m to pip stablemate Mathematics (Sairyn Fawke) in the first of six races on the program.
The Jess Gleeson-trained Devil’s Temptation lost rider Casey Hunter when the field jumped with the five-year-old gelding causing the other nine runners minimal interference, while Hunter escaped injury.
Zelring ($5.50), who was also returning over 1400m (0-64) after finishing sixth over 2000m (0-76) on May 1, jumped from the outside gate (10), was a clear last turning into the back straight and started to wind up approaching the home turn before producing a breath-taking finish.
Coulhon ($3.60) has been performing with distinction in Alice since November and made it back to back wins over 1100m (0-64) after a seven-week break, while stablemate Sedona ($1.90 fav) – who arrived in the Red Centre in February – continued his good form with a hard-fought win over 1100m (0-64).
Hampson only had three rides on Sunday and, although she arrived at Pioneer Park in a confident mood, never expected to land a double, let alone back-to-back wins.
“Sedona has been going really nice – the race set up perfect for us,” she said.
“We jumped out and just sat behind the leader and then peeled out around the corner, and he did just enough to get there.
“The plan with Sedona after talking to Phil was to just be up there – that’s what he did and he did the rest himself.
“Zelring, I watched all his replays, and he likes to come from behind – he takes a bit to find his feet, so we just let him jump out and sat behind and worked our way through and then peeled out.
“He’s got a really nice turn of foot on him – he rolled home really nice and just got there.
“Lisa and I had a chat before the race and talked about how he gets back, and not to have him too far back.
“I did have to make him stay there, if I just let him race he would have gone back a bit further.”
As mentioned, it wasn’t a bad weekend for Hampson after getting the cash for Cole aboard the $4 chance Kronos against 0-76 opposition over 1300m at Fannie Bay on Saturday.
The last time Jade rode Kronos was on Anzac Day, her second race meeting as a jockey, and that was the day she fell from the Peter Stennett-trained Koa injuring her ankle.
That sidelined her for seven weeks before returning on June 11 where she rode a double at Darwin.
“I’ve ridden Kronos before and Saturday wasn’t anything like the last time when he finished third,” Hampson said.
“He gave me everything on Saturday, so that was great.
“The ankle injury is definitely forgotten and things are going great.
“The 4kg claim is gone now and I’m down to a 3kg claim – I’ve got six winners up my sleeve now.”
In the other two races at Alice Springs on Sunday, victory went to the Will Savage’s $5 hope Sirocco Gale (Ianish Luximon) in a 1400m maiden and Barry Cooke’s $4.40 runner Just Hang Up (Sonja Wiseman) against 0-54 rivals over 1600m.
Sirocco Gale was debuting at Pioneer Park after six runs in NSW and Victoria beyond 1600m, while Just Hang Up made it four wins from 20 career starts and it was the first time he had tasted victory since September last year.