Wayne Davis is one of the more colourful characters in Darwin racing.
Quick with a one-liner, happy to entertain in the mounting yard after booting home a winner, always willing to shake your hand, or willing to congratulate a rival jockey and trainer should they taste success.
He loves to remind people that he is the only Group 1-winning jockey riding in the Northern Territory, but not in an arrogant manner.
The 51-year-old had a good day at Fannie Bay on Saturday with a winning double for the Phil Cole stable.
Arriving in the Top End via Victoria, NSW and South Australia, El Magnificence made it two wins from four starts with a last-stride victory in the 0-64 Handicap (1100m).
The seven-year-old gelding, who finished third in his other two runs for Cole, never looked like winning with Darwin debutant Ideas Man (Adam Nicholls) from the Chris Nash stable seemingly having full control of the race.
Another new face to the Top End, Nicole Irwin’s $5.50 hope Smartkap (Sonja Wiseman), looked like catching Ideas Man ($2.70 fav) down the outside in the home straight before fading, but El Magnificence ($3.20), who was sitting behind the leader along the fence, was able to split the pair with a strong finish to get the cash by the narrowest of margins.
0-64 Handicap (1100m) | Darwin | El Magnificence (1st)
“El Magnificence is a terrific horse, a beautiful individual, a model of consistency, and very courageous,” Davis said.
“Certainly knows where the line is – he has taken to dirt racing exceptionally well and very quickly.
“The leader (Ideas Man) had a really high cruising speed – he was dead set smoking.
“Drawing barrier one, I had the intention of being one-two – but for the life of me I just could not match the leader with his tempo.
“At the business end of the race I’ve come off the leader’s back and was able to have a last crack.
“It was a great effort. I’m very proud of the horse, he’s going great guns.”
A massive positive for El Magnificence is that he had a good form down south.
And according to Davis, there’s another contributing factor.
“Just being by Magnus – his sire – they do seem to like the tropics such as Darwin whether it be the weather or the track conditions,” he said.
“Not all horses adapt to this climate and conditions, but with the breeding a horse like El Magnificence seems to exceed and excel here and for that reason he was a great purchase and a great addition to the team.”
Meanwhile, Looking For You continues to impress since his Darwin debut in December 2018.
The seven-year-old gelding, who kicked off his career with four appearances in Victoria, made it three straight wins and 10 wins in 48 starts in the 0-70 Handicap (1600m).
It was also Looking For You’s first win over the mile.
The race was reduced to three starters when Southern Bolt and Brother Bassy were scratched, but Nicole Irwin’s Yesugei (Vanessa Arnott) and Gary Clarke’s Captain Hedderwick (Jarrod Todd) provided stiff opposition.
Jumping to the front, Looking For You ($4.20) led all the way with second-placed Captain Hedderwick ($3.90), who sat in third place, unable to produce his typical late burst and Yesugei ($3 fav), who led all the way in his Darwin debut over 1600m on April 7, sitting in second place before hitting the wall.
0-70 Handicap (1600m) | Darwin | Looking For You (1st)
It was a significant win for Looking For You after a last start win over 1300m in 0-54 class.
“Another horse who is a model of consistency, he’s just about the stable mascot,” Davis said.
“Looking For You came to Team Cole as a maiden.
“He’s drama free, a very sound horse and he’s in great form – the horse is flying and he’s just a pleasure to have around.”
Davis has been riding well since recovering from injuries suffered in a fall at Fannie Bay last July.
The end result was a couple of fractured ribs on top of suffering mild concussion.
“Unfortunately, the older we get we don’t bounce like we used to like when you were 19 or 20,” he said.
“At the same time you just try to look after yourself and resume race riding when you know your body is ready.
“With the people who are supporting you day in and day out with the rides – week in and week out – you want to be as fit as the horses that you are riding.
“If you’re not 100 per cent, well you’re not being fair or just with those people and you can’t give your horses every chance come game day.”
Davis is content and looks to the future with an unwilling exuberance.
“Life is great, very happy and Team Cole – we’re more of a family – is still getting winners which puts a spring in your step when you’re getting out of bed of a morning,” he said.
“I think that Team Cole is in for a big 12 months with the ammunition we’ve got under our belt – we’re really going places.
“I’m hoping to ride for another 10 years.
“When you don’t have a weight problem, and when you’ve still got the passion, the desire and the determination to keep achieving dreams and goals in front of you then I’m happy to continue.”