Trainer Dick Leech has dominated the 2023 Top End Racing Awards.
Not only did Write Your Name claim the Horse of the Year award, but the Darwin Cup winner was also named Middle Distance/Stayer of the Year.
Early Crow was adjudged Sprinter of the Year, while Century Fox picked up the Three-Year-Old of the Year prize.
Leech, who has stables in Darwin and Alice Springs, excelled during the Darwin Cup Carnival in July and August after securing the 2022/23 Alice Springs trainers’ premiership.
It was the first time Leech had won a premiership in either the Top End or Red Centre, but his success was justified after having devoted so many years to the NT racing industry.
Write Your Name, sixth in the Balaklava Cup (1600m) last Wednesday, had an outstanding Alice Springs Cup Carnival in April before heading north.
The son of Written Tycoon won three straight at Pioneer Park from 1400-1900m before taking out the $110,000 Alice Springs Cup (2000m) with Darwin apprentice Jade Hampson in the saddle.
An eight-year-old these days, Write Your Name arrived at Fannie Bay and was third in the weight-for-age Chief Minister’s Cup (1600m) before sealing the $200,000 Darwin Cup (2050m) on August 7 with Paul Shiers on board.
Darwin Cup 2023 – Write Your Name – T: Dick Leech
Others considered for the Middle Distance/Stayer of the Year were Ella Clarke’s Ironedge, Gary Clarke’s Siakam, Nicole Irwin’s Eureka’s Victory and Kerry Petrick’s Magnolia Rose.
Early Crow, a five-year-old gelding by Kuroshio, was a solid performer in Darwin and Alice Springs before claiming the $135,000 Palmerston Sprint (1200m) at Fannie Bay on August 5 with Canberra-based jockey Aaron Sweeney as the pilot.
Palmerston Sprint 2023 – Early Crow – T: Dick Leech
Apart from winning the Flying Sprint (1100m) a week before the Palmerston, Early Crow had a further 11 starts over the short course for four wins and two seconds, and found form in the Top End after coming eighth in the $100,000 Pioneer Sprint (1200m) in Alice Springs.
Gary Clarke’s Doc O’Connor and Mr Cashman, Tayarn Halter’s Canton Kid and Expert Witness, Mark Nyhan’s Bat Pad and Chris Pollard’s Cudjerie were the other Sprinter of the Year nominees.
Century Fox, the son of Eurozone, overcame Petrick’s NT Derby (2050m) winner Anphina, Phil Cole’s Darwin Guineas (1600m) winner Tubthumper, Patrick Johnston’s Ankle Rolex, and the speedy Doc O’Connor when adjudged the best three-year-old.
After winning the NT Guineas (1600m) in Alice Springs with Top End jockey Jarrod Todd on his back, Century Fox was fifth in the Alice Springs Cup before finishing second in the Darwin Guineas – and most likely pipped Anphina and Tubthumper for the award after a further two wins during his first Darwin visit.
NT Guineas 2023 – Century Fox – T: Dick Leech
Siakam won the other major equine award when named Out Of Carnival Performer of the Year from Chris Nash’s Archie James, Bat Pad, Cudjerie, Early Crow, Expert Witness and Write Your Name.
The six-year-old gelding was a model of consistency at Fannie Bay, posting six wins, three seconds and two thirds from 12 starts.
With veteran NT jockey Paul Denton producing a superb ride, Siakam’s biggest win was the $40,000 St Patrick’s Day Cup (1600m) in March.
St Patrick’s Day Cup 2023 – Siakam – T: Gary Clarke
The five-person judging panel then considered the winners in each category for the Horse of the Year Award.
Archie James was the Darwin Tried Horse Sale Performer of the Year after four wins and two minor placings from 13 starts.
The five-year-old gelding by Toorak Toff picked up the award as he was the best-performed horse following the 2022 Darwin Tried Horse Sale.
Jockey Sonja Logan won the Character of Racing award for not only her achievements on the track, but also for her dedication, work ethic, commitment to fair play, integrity and sportsmanship.
A role model, Logan returned to riding at the back end of the Darwin Cup Carnival despite suffering significant facial injuries when attacked outside her home in July.
Long-time Darwin Clerk of the Course, Trudie Clarke, was inducted into the Darwin Racing Hall of Fame, becoming the first woman to join the role of honour.
After some 50 years of service to NT racing, Clarke was also recognised for her service as a jockey, trainer, and Taminmin College mentor for those doing their stablehand certificates.
Halter’s Danielle Gilbert was named Strapper of the Year, while Alice Springs-based Ayla Stevens won the Aftercare Award for her efforts in re-educating and rehoming thoroughbreds after racing.
Gary Clarke was the leading trainer for an 11th-straight year, with Jarrod Todd the top jockey for a fourth consecutive season.
Clarke and Todd were also the dominant force during the Darwin Cup Carnival with 14 wins each.
Emma Lines, 17, third in the jockeys’ premiership with 21 wins, was the leading apprentice after only starting her career in December.
The Women in Thoroughbred Racing Northern Territory’s leading trainer and jockey awards went to Halter and Logan, respectively.