After seven race meetings in the Top End during July, it’s the final day of the 2022 Great Northern Darwin Cup Carnival.
Prominent interstate jockeys have won the biggest race in the Northern Territory since the turn of the century including Hugh Bowman, Chris Munce, Robbie Fradd, Peter Hall, Neil Paine, Justin Potter, Mark Pegus, Shayne Cahill, Nathan Stanley and Steven Arnold.
Arnold, born and raised in Alice Springs before making it to the big time – which included riding So You Think to victory in the 2010 Cox Plate and Scenic Blast to success at Royal Ascot in 2009.
Rawiller, who relocated from Melbourne to Perth in late 2020, will partner $2.70 Palmerbet favourite Living The Dream for Broome-trained Robert Gulberti in the Darwin Cup.
Gulberti is aiming for his third Cup in four years after his grey marvel Ihtsahymn went back to back in 2019 and 2020 with Peter Hall in the saddle.
Living The Dream, a seven-year-old gelding by Artie Schiller, has only had one start at Fannie Bay and could not have been more impressive en route to victory in the $50,000 Metric Mile (1600m) on July 23 – one of the feature races leading up to the Cup.
It was his first start in nine months after finishing eighth in the Northam Cup (1600m) in Western Australia, however Living The Dream had been in work since February.
Living The Dream has only had 29 career starts, but before moving to the west from Victoria he had achieved wins at Moonee Valley (1600m) and Flemington (1720m) in late 2019.
He won at Ascot in February 2021 over 1600m and went on to take out the Coolgardie Cup (1760m) at Kalgoorlie on September 5.
Two weeks later, Living The Dream finished third in the listed Boulder Cup (2100m) at Kalgoorlie and at his next start on October 2 he won the Kalgoorlie Cup (2200m) by three lengths.
The owners of Ihtsahymn were keen to have another Darwin Cup horse with a selection also having a share in the ownership of Living The Dream.
Rawiller headed north to ride Living The Dream in the Metric Mile where he rallied effortlessly to overwhelm the likes of fellow Darwin Cup starters Starouz, I Am The Fox and Kaonic.
“He’s the horse that I want to be on – his first up effort was terrific,” Rawiller said on Sunday.
“We went into the race, 1600m, probably too short, but he’s got that class edge there that you hope is going to show.
“All we were after was the right run going towards the Darwin Cup and we went 50m from an awkward gate and I thought we’re going to take some beating now.
“The way it turned out in the end it wasn’t a gut buster, so to me it was just a bonus along the way.
“With this horse, Rob has done a great job with him.
“He’s obviously got a previous record of knowing how to set a horse coming to Darwin.
“His work since – he has been going to the beach and so forth, but on Friday and Saturday he felt amazing to me and bring on tomorrow.
“If I had the choice of rides, he’s the one I would want to be on – I can’t wait.”
The fact that he had a long association with former WA jockey Peter Hall saw Rawiller come into calculations when Gulberti was looking for a rider to partner Living The Dream in Darwin.
One thing led to another and before he knew it Rawiller was bound for the Northern Territory.
“I was more than happy to take up the opportunity that was given to me,” he said.
“Certainly when this great opportunity came up I was happy to grab it with both hands.
“Hopefully, I can deliver tomorrow.”
For Rawiller, it’s his second trip to the Top End.
“I came 11 years ago – actually my brother Nash got me to come here,” he said.
“I had some success, I didn’t ride in the Cup – but I rode some winners.
“It actually ticked off a box for me by being able to win a race in every state in Australia.
“I was hoping that actually I would again be able to get back here sooner, but it just never eventuated.”
Rawiller is aware that Living The Dream faces a big test on Monday lumping 61.5kg and that $4 second favourite Playoffs, especially, is a serious threat.
Other Cup runners to taste success during the Carnival include Kaonic in the Bridge Toyota Cup (1600m), Venting in the NT Derby (2050m) and Gone Bye in the Buntine Handicap (2050m).
Disregard the remaining seven starters at your peril as they have all made an impact during the Cup Carnival, and half of the field have been assigned 54.5kg or 54kg.
Danon Roman, Noir De Rue and Kaonic are backing up after finishing second, third and fourth in the 2021 Darwin Cup behind Highly Decorated.
However, you get the impression that Rawiller isn’t focusing too much on the opposition.
“The biggest thing for me is my own horse and just giving him the right run,” he said.
“If I worry about my bloke then there’s a good chance he’ll be winning.”
Should Living The Dream be leading and Rawiller hears a rival approaching from the back in the home straight or if Rawiller needs to lift the WA galloper to catch the leader in the closing stages of the Cup there’s every chance that horse could be Playoffs.
As good as Living The Dream was in the Metric Mile, it was hard to fault the Gary Clarke-trained Playoffs when he won the $60,000 Chief Ministers Cup (1600m) at weight-for-age level on July 9 in his one and only Fannie Bay start.
Historically, the Chief Ministers Cup is renowned as the major lead up race before the Darwin Cup and since 2002 there have been eight winners who have gone on to win the Darwin Cup – including Clarke’s pair Lightinthenite (2015) and Zahspeed (2018).
When the Tavistock six-year-old gelding debuted on the Fannie Bay dirt he overcame Darwin Cup starters Our Destrier, who drops 4.5kg on Monday, Noir De Rue, Trident and Gone Bye – and his stocks only increased after rallying in the home straight when it appeared as though he had been headed.
Playoffs arrived in the NT from the leading Ballarat stable of Ciaron Maher and David Eustace and was resuming from a spell after a last start fourth over 2000m at Caulfield on April 9.
For Playoffs, who has proven more than competitive over the longer distances in Victoria, it was just his third win over 1600m in 22 career starts – and that also includes a win over 1400m.
In his past 15 starts since November 2020 – ranging from 1600-2500m – he has recorded four wins, two seconds, four thirds, four fourths and one fifth.
He has also saluted over 2000m at Caulfield and over 2500m at Moonee Valley, and remarkably has only ever finished outside the top five on four occasions.
Jarrod Todd, Playoffs’ jockey on Monday, rode the horse to victory in the Chief Ministers Cup after piloting Royal Request to victory for trainer Neil Dyer in the same race in 2017 – the Kyneton galloper then went on to win the Darwin Cup.
When assessing the fortunes of Living The Dream and Playoffs on Monday, the fact that the WA raider will jump from gate 4 and the Victorian raider will more than likely jump from gate 11 is significant.
In contrast, Living The Dream will spot Playoffs 2kg.
As of Sunday night, the Kym Hann-trained Our Destrier (Stan Tsaikos) was the only other horse quoted under double figure odds for the Cup with the Bendigo-based six-year-old gelding quoted at $7 with the top Australian betting sites.
Finally, Rawiller said that he had enjoyed the past nine days in Darwin despite only having five rides at three Fannie Bay meetings in eight days, which netted him two wins, a second, a third and an eighth.
Apart from the Cup, he had only been booked for three other rides on Monday as of Sunday night.
“The weather has been great, every day you can pretty much guarantee that it will be 30C,” he said.
“I’ve been out on the boat, got a decent sized mud crab and ate that for dinner – that was pretty awesome.
“I’ve had a bit of success in the saddle with limited opportunities, but no complaints from me.”
Living The Dream’s Odds For The 2022 Darwin Cup
Darwin Cup – #1 Living The Dream (4)
7yo Gelding | T: Robert Gulberti | J: Brad Rawiller (61.5kg)