Gardner, Logan back to winning ways at Alice Springs

Alice Springs trainer Paul Gardner returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since early December when Gunnerside saluted at Pioneer Park on Saturday.

They’re leading the way in the Alice Springs and Provincial premierships, but the dry spell for trainer Paul Gardner and jockey Sonja Logan ended on Saturday.

Gardner’s six-year-old gelding Gunnerside ($6.50) saluted over 1100m (BM54) with apprentice Dylan Stanley on board, while Logan piloted Dan Morgan’s eight-year-old gelding Zoustorm ($19) to victory over 1400m (0-70).

It was December 2 when last Gardner and Logan celebrated victory after combining to get Perkova home.

Gardner, aiming for his first title, has 14.5 victories for the 2023/24 season and is 2.5 wins clear of Lisa Whittle.

Darwin-based Logan, last year’s champion, has 11.5 wins and holds a narrow lead over apprentice Ianish Luximon (10), who also had success on Saturday.

Gunnerside impressed the previous week with Logan aboard when second over 1000m (0-64), so to see the son of Choisir post his first win in Central Australia wasn’t a surprise.

Jumping from the outside gate (11), Gunnerside covered plenty of ground and was sitting three deep in fifth place passing the 600m before making his winning move in the home straight.

Greg Connor’s Quanapirri Bay ($13), ridden by Logan, was set for an all-the-way win before Gunnerside swooped late to win by a length – Terry Gillett’s NT debutante Protostar ($2.80 fav) held on for third.

Logan wouldn’t be denied on Zoustorm when the son of Zoustar went to an early lead and edged clear at the 400m before overcoming Russell Bell’s Arrogant Miss ($8.50), who looked gone at the home turn, and Barry Cooke’s Nasha ($13) by 2.3 lengths.

Zoustrom arrived in town after four wins and 11 minor placings from 80 starts in Victoria, Tasmania and SA.

Last year’s champion trainer Dick Leech enjoyed his first win of the campaign when six-year-old gelding Prince Of Mercia ($3.70) also won on debut at Pioneer Park after pouncing on the leaders turning for home to win by 2.8 lengths in open company over 1200m.

The son of Magnus, victorious on debut in Darwin during last year’s Cup Carnival, settled fourth before winding up at the 400m and beating Ray Viney’s Square Cut ($3.10 fav) – who led from the outset – and Gillett’s That’s Justified ($16) home.

Top End apprentice Jade Hampson partnered Prince Of Mercia.

After two unplaced starts in Alice Springs, Viney’s seven-year-old gelding Duty ($3.40 fav) outclassed Kerry Petrick’s Magnolia Rose ($5) – the early pace-maker – and Morgan’s Barocco Bar ($3.90) winning by four lengths over 1600m (0-64).

Duty, the son of Fastnet Rock, was five lengths from the lead in fourth place passing the 800m, but once turning for home and leaving the fence, jockey Jessie Philpot had the gelding in prime position, and with 200m to go, it was all over.

Kieffer ($9), Kevin Lamprecht’s four-year-old gelding, also celebrated his first at the track when he decimated his rivals in a 1400m maiden by 8.6 lengths.

Under the guidance of Luximon, the son of Mawingo jumped well and settled third on the rails, however, it got a bit hectic at the 600m with six horses vying for the lead.

Approaching the final bend, Keiffer left the fence in search of the lead and was in full flight straightening for home before gobbling up the leaders.

Gardner’s Star Of New York ($21), a fading sixth at the 500m, rallied for second, while Bell’s Dartboard ($16), a hopeless last passing the 800m, stormed home for third.

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