Doubles for Todd and Hampson as competition heats up in Alice

Darwin jockey Jarrod Todd, the three-time winner of the Top End and Country jockey’s premiership, had a successful day at Alice Springs on Saturday when he picked up a winning double at Pioneer Park. Picture: Caroline Camilleri (Darwin Photography Professionals)

With the Alice Springs Cup Carnival starting next weekend, a few horses capable of making an impact during April made a statement at Pioneer Park on Saturday.

From an Alice Springs Cup (2000m) and Chief Ministers Cup (1600m) perspective, Dick Leech’s Write Your Name (Jarrod Todd) saluted in open company over 1600m and Nicole Irwin’s Mug’s Game (Sonja Wiseman) won over 1600m (0-70).

Looking ahead to the Pioneer Sprint (1200m) and The Soldier Lightning (1000m), Tayarn Halter’s Expert Witness (Jade Hampson) was exhilarating when leading from start to finish to seal victory over 1000m (BM76).

And when considering the NT Guineas (1600m), Patrick Johnston’s Ankle Rolex (Hampson) is the one to beat after easily accounting for fellow three-year-olds over 1400m (BM68).

In an extraordinary coincidence, the two leading jockeys in the NT and the three riders selected to represent the NT in the 2023 National Apprentice Race Series shared the honours on the program.

Darwin pair Todd and apprentice Hampson, who rode at Heat 5 of the NARS at Eagle Farm on Wednesday, landed doubles.

The Top End’s Wiseman (23) maintained her lead over Todd (16) in the Alice Springs and Provincial jockey’s premiership, while Alice Springs-based apprentices Ianish Luximon and Dakota-Lee Gillett also booted home a winner.

Wiseman (27) also leads Todd (20) in the Top End and Country jockey’s premiership.

Since February 6, only 0.6mm of rain (March 4) had fallen in the Red Centre, but the showers arrived on Thursday and continued on Friday and Saturday with wet and muddy conditions prevailing.

Mug’s Game ($3.20 fav), a six-year-old mare, was making her NT debut and was happy to sit outside the leader Lunch Session (Hampson) before making her move at the 400m approaching the home turn.

The daughter of Legion kicked away to post a fine win from Kerry Petrick’s $3.60 second-elect Venting (Paul Denton), last year’s NT Derby (2050m) winner in Darwin, who made his move from the middle of the pack at the 600m before working home to finish less than a length behind the winner.

Gary Clarke’s $16 betting site chance Group Think (Todd) disappointed last weekend in open class over 1400m, but after settling behind Lunch Session and Mug’s Game he held on for third – albeit well adrift of the first two – with Greg Connor’s $26 outsider Zelring (Lek Maloney) motoring home for fourth after giving the leaders a massive start along the back straight.

Irwin, based at Murray Bridge in SA, was concerned that Mug’s Game may miss a start in the Cup on April 30 due to her low rating and had considered the open 1900m race on the second day of the Carnival to enhance the mare’s hopes of qualifying for Alice Springs’ biggest race.

The win on Saturday proved that she would be worthy of a start in the $110,000 feature and although Mug’s Game will likely contest the 1900m it will be interesting to see if Irwin changes tact.

Mug’s Game was backing up from two 1550m runs at Morphettville Parks where she managed a third (BM62) on March 11 and a fourth (BM70) on March 18.

1/4/23 Alice Springs Race 6 Replay – Mugs Game (1st)

The task for Write Your Name ($2.20 fav) was made easier when Terry Gillett’s Bench Press, who boasts an outstanding record at Pioneer Park, was scratched.

Write Your Name, a seven-year-old gelding, may have won regardless after bouncing back to form to blitz the opposition by 8.8 lengths in open company over 1400m last weekend.

Following the scratchings of Bench Press and Yowza, only four horses contested the open mile with Write Your Name happy to take the sit behind the leader Boom Boom Sweet (Denton), Petrick’s $10 prospect.

The son of Written Tycoon hit the front with 350m to go at the top of the straight to record a comfortable win over Halter’s $5.50 starter I Am The Fox (Hampson), the 2021 Alice Springs Cup winner, who worked home nicely, with Boom Boom Sweet holding on for third from Gillett’s $2.35 candidate Great Buy (Dakota-Lee Gillett).

1/4/23 Alice Springs Race 7 Replay – Write Your Name (1st)

Darwin sprinter Expert Witness ($5), a first up specialist, made it five straight wins en route to a 2.4 length win over Mark Nyhan’s $2.70 favourite Bat Pad (Wiseman), a last start winner on March 19, with Leech’s $3.30 runner Kerioth (Todd), seventh behind Bat Pad a fortnight ago, a distant third.

Expert Witness, the four-year-old son of Star Witness, has been a sensation since arriving from Queensland having won six races from 10 starts in the Top End and before his Alice debut he had not raced since November 12.

1/4/23 Alice Springs Race 3 Replay – Expert Witness (1st)

Considered a likely NT Guineas prospect after his debut win in a 1100m maiden at Darwin on New Year’s Eve, Ankle Rolex further enhanced credentials when he hit the front after 200m on Saturday thus allowing Hampson, who was back in Alice after riding in Brisbane and Darwin through the week, to dictate terms.

Turning for home, Barry Cooke’s $10 fancy Jewel Roca (Casey Hunter) challenged the leader and with 200m to go Hampson peeped over her shoulder before Ankle Rolex ($1.55 fav) sprinted clear to seal a three length win to make it four wins from six starts.

1/4/23 Alice Springs Race 5 Replay – Ankle Rolex (1st)

The son of Cable Bay was victorious in his Alice debut over 1200m against the three-year-olds on March 19 – and with a view to the NT Guineas the performance of Petrick’s third-placed Perisseuo (Denton), who jumped at $17 in his first NT start, didn’t go unnoticed after settling at the rear before winding up in the home straight.

Meanwhile, Clarke and Todd – Darwin’s dynamic duo – celebrated when six-year-old gelding Norse Mythology ($3.80) returned from a brief sojourn in SA to win his first NT race at the third attempt over 1200m (0-64).

The son of Real Saga shared the lead with Gillett’s Brat (Gillett) and Kevin Lamprecht’s Sweet As Scandi (Luximon) before securing the lead at the 400m to win by a length and a half with Irwin’s $5 hope Jura Mac (Wiseman), who settled in fourth place, and Petrick’s $7 chance Magnolia Rose (Denton), who settled well back, rallying in the home straight to fill the minor placings.

1/4/23 Alice Springs Race 1 Replay – Norse Mythology (1st)

Trevor Montgomerie’s $5.50 contender Fluffy Bunny Feet (Gillett) made it back to back wins after nailing Phil Cole’s $3.70 favourite Colhoun (Wayne Davis) right on the line over 1100m (0-58).

Colhoun got to an early lead and was perhaps unlucky not to win, but Fluffy Bunny Feet, the four-year-old mare of Magnus, was never far away, with Boy Big ($21), trained and ridden by Dan Morgan, flashing home for third after making a move from the rear at the 600m.

Lamprecht’s Travanti (Luximon) kept pace with the leaders and somehow finished a length behind the winner in fourth place despite labouring at the home turn.

1/4/23 Alice Springs Race 4 Replay – Fluffy Bunny Feet (1st)

Speaking of Lamprecht, he also enjoyed success after Luximon guided three-year-old gelding Daniher ($2.35 fav) to his first win at his sixth start in his NT debut in a 1200m maiden.

The former Victorian galloper, the son of Fighting Sun, did share the lead with Nyhan’s $14 starter Slinky’s Star (Davis), who finished third, before Rene Taylor’s $31 bolter Eight On The Dot (Denton), the runner up, entered the fray, but in the end Daniher clicked to win by three and a half lengths.

1/4/23 Alice Springs Race 2 Replay – Daniher (1st)

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