It doesn’t happen that often in Darwin, but three horses had the rare distinction of winning on debut during Saturday’s six-event program at Fannie Bay.
Some horses adapt to the oil-mixed sand and dirt track straight away, others get used to it after a while, and there are those who just cannot perform on the surface at all.
Having dirt kicked into their face is something a horse will resent as well, and of course there is the heat during the dry season and humidity during the wet season.
Sure, a horse can train and trial at Fannie Bay, but it’s a different story come race day.
The same situation applies when a horse arrives to race on the dirt surface at Alice Springs.
Meticulous preparation can also assist a horse when they arrive to compete in the Northern Territory, but it also helps if they have ability.
Gary Clarke enjoyed success with former Western Australian galloper Giant Leap in the $22,000 Benchmark 76 Handicap (1300m), but the five-year-old gelding arrived in the Top End with a pretty decent record – 12 placings in 16 starts.
Giant Leap ($3.90) settled midfield along the rails before finding a winning gap to make it four career wins with fast-finishing stablemate Mellors (Stan Tsaikos) and Phil Cole’s $7 hope Brother Bassy (Casey Hunter) finishing second and third, respectively.
BM76 Handicap (1300m) | Darwin | May 21, 2022
Although he debuted at Alice Springs in his last start, finishing third, it was also a Fannie Bay debut for Mellors ($6) – who has spent most of his career racing in Victoria.
Clarke agreed that it was unusual to see three horses win first up in Darwin.
“As far as Giant Leap’s case goes I just think he’s a pretty classy horse – he was just a bit better than them pretty much,” he said.
“Mellors was a very good run – he’s a mile horse, so when he gets out to a mile he’ll go even better.
“Giant Leap and Mellors had plenty of prep on the sand – both horses had two trials on the sand and everything before they raced here.
“That helps them a bit.
“You’ve also got to have some kind of ability otherwise you’re wasting your time.
“Not too sure what I’ll do with Giant Leap.
“He might make his way to the ROANT Gold Cup (1300m) and maybe the big mile races.
“Whereas the other horse Mellors he will probably go straight to the miles – if there’s a mile for him I’ll put him in it.”
Next up was the John Peacock-trained three-year-old gelding Super Famous (Adam Nicholls), who prevailed at the nice odds of $5 in the TROBIS 3YO Handicap (1100m).
Murray Bridge trainer Peacock, a long-time supporter of NT racing, has a very high opinion of the horse with Super Famous having four starts in Alice Springs recently prior to his arrival in the Top End.
Super Famous had a win, a second and third before a last-start fifth in the Red Centre, but after a three-week break he bounced back to his best and travelled beautifully in transit before just holding off the in-form First Crusade (Paul Shiers) – the $1.65 favourite – from the Garry Lefoe Jnr yard.
TROBIS 3YO Handicap (1100m) | Darwin | May 21, 2022
It was only his third win in 14 starts, from which he has also managed seven minor placings.
Clarke’s Yaroomba (Stan Tsaikos), who started at $11 with the bookmakers, was competitive throughout and grabbed third place.
“Super Famous went super – he didn’t give in and they were never going to pass him when he hit the front,” Peacock said.
“When he got into the open Adam had trouble holding him at the 400m.
“When he let him go in the home straight he was going to be hard to beat.
“Adam rode him very well – he is one of the best riders in Darwin.
“No fluke about it, he’s a very good horse and they ran a very good time – he ran his last 600m in 34.
“Takes a good horse to beat those kind of horses.
“I’ve brought horses up here previously, and yes, it’s rare for them to win their first race.
“The horse has got to enjoy the conditions.
“Super Famous ran against some pretty good horses in Alice, so hopefully he’ll continue to prove competitive after his win on Saturday.”
Tom Logan completed the “trifecta” when former South Australian gelding Blueberry Boy (Sonja Wiseman) saluted in the $17,500 Benchmark 54 Handicap (1100m).
It was only Blueberry Boy’s second win in 15 starts, but he never missed a beat during the race and was happy to settle behind the leaders before making his move in the home straight to win comfortably by three lengths.
Starting at $4.40, the four-year-old could not have been more impressive with Peacock’s $6.50 hope Star Of Monsoon (Adam Nicholls) and Clarke’s $2.40 favourite Chief Mondo (Paul Shiers) rattling home to secure the minor placings.
BM54 Handicap (1100m) | Darwin | May 21, 2022
“Seeing three new horses on the scene win first up, it’s not something you see every week in Darwin that’s for sure,” Logan said.
“My Blueberry Boy – he’s been up here for probably two-and-a-half months now.
“He’s kind of adapted to the weather – he’s looking really good and doing everything right.
“My partner Sonja Wiseman rode him down south when we were down there, and showed a bit of potential.
“It’s funny, a couple of my cousins and a couple of boys I went to school with owned him and they raced him down south in Mt Gambier and he wasn’t doing much down there in last five or six starts.
“All the boys reckoned they should send him up to me and give him a go.
“Sonja loved the horse when she rode him in South Australia, so they sent him up here and he has thrived since he has been up here.
“Always thought that his fitness was going to be against us on Saturday because it has been about five months between runs.
“And he come up not looking a million dollars either, so we had a little bit of work to do.
“I don’t know, it’s just some horses just love this environment, love the track, love the heat – so it just depends on the horse on the day I suppose.”