Ella Clarke, Casey Hunter combine for Darwin double on Friday

Ella Clarke, who has joined the training ranks, celebrates a win with her highly successful father Gary, a dominant force in the Northern Territory training ranks, following a win at Fannie Bay during last year’s Darwin Cup Carnival.

Last week an experienced pair combined for a winning double at Fannie Bay, but on Friday it was a youthful Darwin duo who achieved the same feat.

Following in the footsteps of trainer Phil Cole and jockey Wayne Davis, 25-year-old trainer Ella Clarke and 28-year-old jockey Casey Hunter celebrated when Cisapline ($21) prevailed over 1300m (0-58) and Eurellydidit ($8) saluted over 1600m (0-64).

For Clarke, the daughter of 10-time Top End and Country premiership trainer Gary, it was her fifth career win in 23 starts after kick-starting her career in October 2021 and to make the achievement even better it was her first double.

Ella has also finished among the minor placings on five times, not a bad strike rate for a trainer who only has four horses under her care – Pop Magic and Solar Success complete the team.

“Pretty proud Dad at the moment,” Gary said on Friday night.

It was Hunter’s first double since partnering Chole Baxter’s Del Viento and Cole’s Saccharo on February 17, and prior to that it was July 23 during the Darwin Cup Carnival on Kerry Petrick’s Our Luca and Jess Gleeson’s Dataset.

That made it 11 wins for the 2022/23 season in the Top End for Hunter – she now sits fourth behind Sonja Wiseman (27), Jarrod Todd (20) and Wayne Davis (12).

Cisapline made it two wins from eight starts in Darwin and two wins from his past three starts since arriving from Victoria, but he left it late before nailing Cole’s $4.40 pacemaker Ye Hella (Davis) – a winner for previous trainer Tom Logan two weeks ago – in the closing 100m.

The four-year-old gelding sat in second place for most of the journey with the son of Toronado pouncing when Ye Hella hit the wall, while Tayarn Halter’s $4.80 hope I’m A Dreamer (Jade Hampson) finished at top speed to trail the winner by a neck with Ye Hella third.

31/3/23 Darwin Race 1 Replay – Cisapline (1st)

Eurellydidit, who arrived in the Top End via Victoria and NSW, was having his third start in March for his new trainer after finishing sixth behind Thunder Peak over 1200m (BM54) before coming a narrow sixth behind Zou Zou Kacanarkis over 1300m (0-58) when a severe thunderstorm swamped Fannie Bay.

The five-year-old gelding finished strongly in the home straight after settling mid-field to overcome Halter’s fast-finishing $8 chance with betting sites Fischer (Hampson) by 0.75 lengths with Cole’s $2.70 favourite Brother Bassy (Paul Shiers), who looked the winner at the 200m, not far away in third place.

It was a fourth win from 28 starts for Eurellydidit, the son of Magic Albert, who had his last start in NSW on January 3 when seventh over 1600m (Class 3) at Taree.

31/3/23 Darwin Race 4 Replay – Eurellydidit (1st)

To cap off a good day for Hunter, she also won the jockey’s challenge after being quoted at $34 before the first race.

Wiseman extended her lead over three-time champion Todd when she sealed a winning double for Chris Nash on $1.65 favourite Archie James over 1200m (BM54) and Jo Banks on $1.75 first-elect Sweet Cheval over 1600m (0-64).

Archie James, a four-year-old gelding, was purchased by Nash at the Magic Millions Darwin Turf Club Tried Horse Sale during Cup Carnival last July and made it four career wins from eight starts at Fannie Bay – having only missed a minor placing twice.

The son of Toorak Toff had 10 starts in Victoria where he managed two seconds and a third, and he has certainly adapted to the dirt in the tropics having accumulated just under $58,000 in stakes.

Wiseman, who has had three wins from as many rides on Archie James, had the horse sitting comfortably in fourth place along the fence before making her move approaching the final bend.

Once leaving the fence, Archie James pursued Chris Pollard’s $16 pacemaker Dream Weaver (Hunter), but Gary Clarke’s $5.50 runner Patria (Todd), sitting in third place, was certainly in the mix half way down the home straight.

Archie James (62kg) slipped away in the final 100m to overcome the brave Patria (61kg) by just under a length, while Dream Weaver held on gallantly for third from Halter’s $6 starter Raffalli (Shiers), who worked home strongly from the back.

31/3/23 Darwin Race 2 Replay – Archie James (1st)

Meanwhile, it was basically a one-act affair when Sweet Cheval led from start to finish and although his rivals applied pressure approaching the last corner the five-year-old gelding kicked in the home straight to win by 2.25 lengths to make it three wins from his past five starts since February 4.

Sweet Cheval, who made it two career wins over 1600m in his past three starts, was always travelling comfortably as Wiseman controlled the tempo and after winning his previous race over a mile at 0-76 level the son of Sweet Orange was the one to beat.

It was win number six for Sweet Cheval from 17 starts for the Banks stable – he was competitive in seven starts in Victoria and NSW without tasting success – with Halter’s $7 challenger Karaoke Express (Hampson) and Cole’s $7.50 participant Floreat Pica (Davis) doing little wrong to fill the minor placings.

31/3/23 Darwin Race 5 Replay – Sweet Cheval (1st)

After grabbing the headlines last Friday, Cole and Davis had tongues wagging when former Queensland mare Soul Spirit produced a spectacular win in her Darwin debut over 1000m (Class 2).

Doc O’Connor (Todd), a recent Victorian acquisition by Gary Clarke, started as the $1.85 favourite despite having 61kg on his back after an impressive first up win in the Top End over 1100m (Class 2) during one of the two legs in the National Apprentice Race Series.

Carrying an extra 4kg on this occasion, Doc O’Connor held a handy lead once leaving the back straight and only extended that advantage to about five lengths down the side – even at that stage he looked a good thing.

Once straightening for home, he held a commanding lead as Soul Spirit ($6.50), sitting in third place, shook off second-placed Dream Chance (Hunter), a $41 outside from the Pollard yard, but catching the leader seemed impossible.

With 200m to go, Doc O’Connor was still five lengths clear, but with the winning post in sight he laboured and to the credit of Davis, who never gave up, he kept Soul Spirit (57.5kg) focused and she swooped to seal a stunning win by half a length.

It was a third win from 12 starts and for the daughter of Domesday to topple Doc O’Connor and Nash’s $6 candidate Air Command (Phillip Crich), a distant third, was even more remarkable considering her last appearance was in August last year when seventh over 1400m (BM58) on the synthetic at the Sunshine Coast.

31/3/23 Darwin Race 3 Replay – Soul Spirit (1st)

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