Expert Witness back in action at Darwin after injury layoff

Expert Witness at Darwin
The Tayarn Halter-trained Expert Witness on the outside holds off the fast-finishing Poupee from the Tom Logan stable in an exciting finish at Darwin’s Fannie Bay. (Photo: Caroline Camilleri – Darwin Photography Professionals)

He missed the big races during the Darwin Cup Carnival because of injury, but the Tayarn Halter-trained sprinter Expert Witness returns to action on Saturday.

The five-year-old gelding, who has been a revelation in the NT following his arrival from Queensland, will line up in a highly competitive Benchmark 76 over 1000m at Fannie Bay.

In 14 NT starts, Expert Witness has posted eight wins and only once has he missed a place.

It will be the first meeting in the Top End since the Darwin Cup Carnival ended on August 7.

In a race that wouldn’t have looked out of place during the carnival, Expert Witness will have his hands full overcoming a talented trio in Chris Nash’s Ideas Man, Gary Clarke’s Rising Sphere, and Phil Cole’s Star Magnum.

Jason Manning’s Niewand, Chris Pollard’s Cudjerie, and Cole’s former South Australian galloper Damascus Moment complete the field, and although they will give it their best shot, victory would come as a surprise.

READ: Darwin racing tips & quaddie picks – Saturday, September 2

In his first Darwin start for trainer Garry Lefoe Jnr, Expert Witness saluted in an 1100m maiden on New Year’s Day in 2022 before coming second over 1200m against fellow three-year-olds and maiden runners on Australia Day and third over 1000m in February.

Transferred to the Halter stable at the start of last year’s Darwin Cup Carnival, the son of Star Witness was victorious over 1000m.

In his next four starts he won two races, over 1000m and 1100m, before the wins continued over 1000m in October and November.

After spending close to five months in the paddock, Expert Witness headed to the Red Centre and was victorious over 1000m on April 1 before returning when the Alice Springs Cup Carnival was in full swing, where he was second behind NT champion Savatoxl over 1200m.

Inconvenienced by the outside barrier in the $100,000 Pioneer Sprint, which accommodated 12 runners on April 30, Expert Witness looked set for victory before being pipped on the line by Terry Gillett’s fast-finishing Supreme Attraction.

Halter had every right to be confident heading into the Darwin Cup Carnival, and all seemed promising when the horse returned from a spell to win over 1100m in open company as a $2.20 favourite on July 8.

Expert Witness – Darwin, July 8

However, hopes of Expert Witness starting in the $135,000 Palmerston Sprint (1200m) on August 5 were dashed when he was diagnosed with a foot abscess.

Having recovered, the gelding was earmarked for the $35,000 Simone Montgomerie Lightning (1000m) on Cup Day, but he was scratched after injuring his leg in his stable box.

Unless something spectacular happens before the weekend, Expert Witness will lump 62kg with Darwin Cup-winning jockey Paul Shiers on his back as he eyes his eighth Darwin win.

“Expert Witness was primed for the Darwin Cup Carnival and it appeared certain he would feature in the Palmerston Sprint, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case,” Thoroughbred Racing NT chief executive Andrew O’Toole said.

“He was unlucky in Alice Springs and to push Will Savage’s outstanding Savatoxl was no mean feat.

“It will be good to see him back – he certainly boasts a good record here in Darwin.

“Ideas Man, Rising Sphere and Star Magnum, however, cannot be written off as they bring respectable form to the table.

“It should be a high-quality race – I’m looking forward to it and it will be great way to start the new season.

“Ideas Man has tremendous Darwin form with five wins and two seconds from 16 starts and finished second in the Palmerston Sprint behind Dick Leech’s Early Crow.

“Rising Sphere has three wins in Darwin and has only missed a place twice in 10 starts, and was second behind Doc O’Connor in the Lightning on Cup Day.

“Star Magnum had two wins from four starts in Darwin after leaving Matthew Dunn’s stable in Murwillumbah, and he actually beat Ideas Man and Rising Sphere over 1100m during Carnival.

“He then finished ninth in the Palmerston and on Saturday he has a 5.5kg advantage over Expert Witness.

“The Manning stable has had success with Niewand in the past, and although he hasn’t won in over a year, he was third in the Montgomerie.”

Expert Witness’ best effort for Sunshine Coast-based trainer Billy Healey was a second in his very first start as a two-year-old when he finished second in an 800m maiden at Gatton.

The Clarke-trained Change Is Coming is the one to beat over 1000m on Saturday’s five-event program, but little should separate the runners in the other three races.

Tom Logan’s Virtuous Miss over 1100m and Blueant over 1300m, along with Manning’s Arch Of Titus over 1200m won’t be far away in their respective races.

More horse racing news

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments