Not only did leading Top End trainer Gary Clarke land a winning treble at Fannie Bay on Wednesday, but he also made it three feature wins during the 2022 Great Northern Darwin Cup Carnival.
Autocratic, the $2.70 favourite with Palmerbet, proved too good for his rivals with victory in the $40,000 Darwin Corporate Park Cup (1300m) on Day 6 of the Cup Carnival.
Clarke had already tasted success with three-year-old Wolfburn (Adam Nicholls) in the $75,000 Darwin Guineas (1600m) and Playoffs (Jarrod Todd) at weight-for age level in the $60,000 Asian United Food Services Chief Ministers Cup (1600m).
Wolfburn, with Todd riding the gelding, came close to winning the $135,000 Ladbrokes NT Derby (2050m) when he finished second behind the Kerry Petrick-trained Venting (Paul Denton).
With two days of the Cup Carnival remaining, Clarke is a chance of claiming the $135,000 bet365 Palmerston Sprint (1200m) on Saturday with The Captain and Syncline and the $200,000 Great Northern Darwin Cup (2050m) on Monday with Playoffs and Vallabar.
On top of that, Clarke will secure his 10th straight Top End trainer’s premiership this weekend with the 2021/22 season draws to a close.
Clarke now has 53 winners on the board, and is also the leading trainer during the Cup Carnival with 11 wins.
Todd, who rode Autocratic, as well as We Will Remember and Rising Sphere to victory for Clarke on Wednesday, will take out the Top End jockey’s premiership for the third straight year with 42 winners already in the bank and is now the Cup Carnival’s leading rider with nine wins.
After arriving from NSW, Autocratic won five of his first eight starts in Darwin from May 2020-May 2021 before a winless streak in his next nine races.
In fairness, he finished second, third or fourth in his last five starts, so he wasn’t all that far away and the five-year-old’s win after a 14 month drought wasn’t necessarily a complete surprise.
Autocratic started well from gate two and had Tayarn Halter’s Fragore (Jade Hampson) and Dick Leech’s Halgard (Sairyn Fawke) for company on his outside before hitting the front passing the 1000m.
The Wandjina gelding travelled beautifully and never once looked in danger of defeat after extending his lead before rounding the home turn.
It was all over with 250m to go as Autocratic saluted by four lengths from Fragore ($3.30), with Halgard ($14) holding on to just pip Clarke’s $8 hope Obligatory (Paul Shiers) for third place.
Clarke was understandably impressed with the win, but was quick to point out that the horse has caused him frustration over the years.
“He did what we always knew he could do – he’s always been a horse with heaps of ability,” Clarke said.
“Hopefully, he’s going to reach his full potential as he gets older.
“I liked his chances today because we’ve had a good winter.
“He doesn’t like the heat and we’ve had a really good winter leading into today.
“He was pretty happy.”
Autocratic, who won the Darwin Guineas two years ago when it was switched from 1600m to 1300m due to Covid, is a three quarter brother to former Oakleigh Plate winner Russian Revolution.
“He’s really well bred,” Clarke said.
“When he won his maiden he beat two subsequent Group 1 winners.
“They ran second and third behind him.”
Those two horses were Shadow Hero and Prince Fawaz, who couldn’t match it with Autocratic in a two-year-old maiden over 1400m at Newcastle in May 2019.
“He’s always showed us as much ability as you’ll get in a horse up here, but as I said he’s very frustrating,” Clarke added.
“He’s got a mind of his own.
“He won’t do anything unless he is willing to do it on his terms, not your terms.”
According to Clarke, Obligatory ran an honest race and managed to beat in-form mares Valentina Star and Swing With Junior – first and second in the $30,000 Rose Bowl (1300m) for the girls on July 13 – across the line.
“Obligatory got caught wide most of the way and still held on quite good,” he said.
“He’ll probably go back to the mile for his next run.”
The day started well for Clarke when We Will Remember ($6), who had finished second in his past two starts, took out the $20,000 HK Solutions 0-62 Handicap (1600m) by three and a half lengths.
The four-year-old gelding sat behind the leaders Siakam ($2.25 fav) and Jennevee ($8.50) before bursting away in the home straight with $5.50 hope Southern Bolt (Paul Denton) and $9 chance Feed The Monster (Sairyn Fawke) finishing strongly for second and third.
Clarke’s other success occurred in the $20,000 JLL 0-66 Handicap (1100m) when Rising Sphere ($2.30), who was a scratching on Saturday, prevailed after a first up seventh in Darwin on July 13.
The four-year-old gelding led from start to finish to brain his rivals by six lengths with $4.60 hopes Madam Mischief (Sairyn Fawke) and Overruled (Adam Nicholls), who dislodged the jockey prior to the race, filling the minor placings.
Bendigo trainer Kym Hann managed a winning double after seven-year-old gelding Elmore Lad (Sonja Wiseman) triumphed in the $20,000 Jaytex Construction 0-62 Handicap (1200m) and four-year-old gelding Boy Big (Adam Nicholls) got home in the $20,000 Ironbark Aboriginal Corporation TROBIS Maiden (1300m).
Elmore Lad ($3.30 fav) had to switch from the rails to the outside in the home straight before catching $4.20 chance Real Valentia (Wayne Davis) and $5.50 hope Chief Mondo (Jarrod Todd) in a blanket finish, while Boy Big ($3.50) came from well back to sink fast-finishing $2.80 favourite Fischer (Jade Hampson) and $6.50 hopeful Bear Forever (Sonja Wiseman).
Meanwhile, Dick Leech trained his second Cup Carnival winner when War Games (Sairyn Fawke), who got left behind in the gates when they jumped, recovered to produce an outstanding victory in the $20,000 bet365 Class 2 Handicap (1100m).
It was an impressive effort by the five-year-old gelding ($15) on his Darwin debut, with $41 outsider Afternoon Tea (Wayne Davis) – yet another first starter at Fannie Bay – coming from the back to pip $6 chance Champs D’Or (Stan Tsaikos) for second place.