Crich delighted with Ladies Day win at Kununurra

Kununurra racing news
The end of August is a big occasion for the Kununurra Race Club when it hosts the annual Ladies Day and Cup Day meetings on the only grassed track in WA north of Geraldton.

He has ridden at Kununurra in Western Australia on and off for the past 20 years, so Phillip Crich understandably felt chuffed when he landed a winner on Saturday.

The Kununurra Race Club conducts the annual Ladies Day and Cup Day meetings in late August and the racecourse itself is the only grassed surface in WA north of Geraldton.

With a population of around 5500, Kununurra is about 830km from Darwin via Katherine along the Stuart and Victoria highways and 1045km from Broome along the Great Northern and Broome highways.

It’s just 45km from the Northern Territory border and is situated among the scenic hills and ranges of the far north-east Kimberley region.

Crich, who now calls Murray Bridge in South Australia home, has been holidaying in the NT after accepting an invitation from Top End trainer Chris Pollard to ride during the recent Darwin Cup Carnival.

The 53-year-old, who works for a shelving company in Murray Bridge, used to live in Darwin and spent many years riding at Fannie Bay before leaving the NT in early 2019 and only returned to the saddle in January after having a two-year break.

With 38 years of experience as a jockey, Crich doesn’t get to compete at race meetings as often as he would like these days.

He fronts for track work most mornings in Murray Bridge and since making his return he has had the opportunity to ride at Murray Bridge, Oakbank, Clare, Ceduna, Streaky Bay, Port Augusta and Hawker.

Crich rode a winner on Day 1 of the Darwin Cup Carnival at Fannie Bay on July 2 when he got Brimarvi Rooboy home for the Pollard stable.

“Darwin Cup Carnival didn’t go as good as I thought it would, but I had fun,” he said.

“It’s been really great being around good friends and that sort of stuff – good company.”

Darwin trainer Kerry Petrick, who won the NT Derby with Venting during the Darwin Cup Carnival, took a team to Kununurra for the race meetings on August 20 and 27 and she needed a rider.

After agreeing to make the trip, Petrick paid for the plane ticket that got Crich to Kununurra.

“Had a bit of success on Saturday with a winner, a second and a third,” Crich said.

“I will be here for the Cup this weekend.”

Mangione ($2.80 fav) gave the leaders a fair start before finishing strongly to edge out Dick Leech’s $3.70 hope Lunch Session (Vanessa Arnott) by 0.8 of a length over 1800m (0-62).

Constant Cause ($7) suffered a narrow loss (0.2 of a length) at the hands of Dick Leech’s $4.60 chance Mazy Motion, with Queensland jockey Tessa Townsend at the controls, over 1600m (0-48).

In the feature race – the $17,500 Ladies Day Bracelet (1100m) for the 0-56 grade – New Roman ($8.50), highly inconsistent during the Darwin Cup Carnival, was far from disgraced after finishing a narrow third behind Anthony Barton’s $5.50 contender Ornamental Belle (Simone Altieri) and Tayarn Halter’s $3.10 favourite Hattan Man (Jade Hampson).

Crich had two other rides on the weekend finishing sixth aboard the Russell Bell-trained Wayanka ($21) from Alice Springs over 1200m (0-62) and seventh on Petrick’s other runner Real Devine ($20) over 1350m (0-56).

In the $32,000 Kununurra Cup (1800m) for the 0-62 division this Saturday, Crich will partner Petrick’s six-year-old gelding Boom Boom Sweet, who has had one win in five Darwin starts after debuting on June 11 before a last start fourth in the Katherine Cup (1700m) on August 13.

“Boom Boom Sweet has got sound form leading into the Cup,” Crich said.

“My last Kununurra Cup winner was back in 2014 on Igles Star – Chris Pollard trained it.

“I have been riding here in Kununurra on and off for the last 18 years and it was good to see that Saturday’s meeting was featured on Sky Racing.

“That’s good for Kununurra racing.

“The track keeps improving every time I come – probably this year it’s been the best it’s ever been.

“The Kununurra Race Club do the best they can.

“I have no plans at the moment after Kununurra, we’ll just see what happens.”

It wasn’t a bad day for NT trainers on the six-event program on Saturday.

Darwin-based Dick Leech ended up with a winning double when Write Your Name, with Top End jockey Venessa Arnott in the saddle, defied a 63kg impost to secure a thrilling victory over 1350m (0-56).

The $2.60 favourite was well adrift along the back straight before producing a big finish in the home straight to grab the leaders, including stablemate War Games (Tessa Townsend), in the shadows of the winning post with less than 0.6 of a length separating the first four horses across the line.

Karnup trainer Darryn Pateman, who won the Broome Cup (2200m) with Ombudsman (Simone Altieri) on August 13, had to settle for third place with $3.60 runner Yankee Lima (Jessica Gray).

Tayarn Halter, also from Darwin, picked up a win as well when Don’t Wait ($5), with her apprentice Jade Hampson steering the ship, basically led from start to finish before hanging on by a length over 1200m (0-62) from the Dick Leech pair Halgard (Vanessa Arnott) and Signor Fangio (Tessa Townsend), who started at $5.50 and $7.50.

For Hampson, who has set Darwin and Alice Springs alight since making her riding debut in April, her debut victory at Kununurra followed the win she achieved aboard the Halter-trained Raffalli in her debut appearance at Broome on August 9.

Kununurra trainer Anthony Barton, who also trains out of Broome, and partner Simone Altieri, who is normally based in Perth, have previous links to the NT and secured the major honours on Saturday when Ornamental Belle won the Ladies Day Bracelet.

Ornamental Belle led early before Kerry Petrick’s New Roman and Russell Bell’s $8 hope Arrogant Miss (Jerry Noske) kept each other company out in front along the back straight and before reaching the final turn.

With Hattan Man winding up along the rails the scene was set for a big finish before Ornamental Belle rallied in the home straight to seal victory by 0.75 of a length from Hattan Man and third-placed New Roman.

Waroona trainer Peter Farrell also flew the flag for WA when he won the opening race with $2.90 hope More Snitzel (Simone Altieri) in a Class B Handicap (1200m) and as was the case in five of the six races it was yet another thrilling finish.

Trailing joint leaders Vin Rogue (Jessica Gray), jumping at $8 hope for the Anthony Barton stable, and Spill The Money (Vanessa Arnott), starting at $14 for the Dick Leech yard, More Snitzel spilt the pair once turning for home.

Although he ended up hitting the front More Snitzel prevailed by only 0.15 of a length from Dick Leech’s fast-finishing $1.70 favourite Lethal Encounter (Tessa Townsend) with Spill The Money just 0.4 of a length adrift of the winner in third place.

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