Last start winner Bar Gem an unlikely Pioneer Sprint starter for trainer Greg Connor

The Greg Connor-trained Bar Gem winning the $20,000 0-76 Handicap (1400m) at Pioneer Park Alice Springs on April 16, 2022.

He wouldn’t look out of place in the feature race for sprinters during the Alice Springs Cup Carnival.

However, it’s doubtful Bar Gem will get a start in the $100,000 Pioneer Sprint on Alice Springs Cup Day at Pioneer Park on May 1.

The six-year-old gelding continued his outstanding record in the Red Centre with victory in the $20,000 0-76 Handicap (1400m) last Saturday.

It was a courageous win after chewing up a lot of petrol for a major portion of the race.

Jumping from barrier seven, Bar Gem (Jessie Philpot) was sitting six wide for the first 250m before turning into the back straight.

The Greg Connor-trained galloper then sat three wide outside the pilot Jet Jackson (Sonja Wiseman) on the rails and 2018 Alice Springs Cup winner Ash Grey (Stan Tsaikos) at the 1100m before hitting the front by the 900m.

Bar Gem ($2.15 favourite), a certainty beaten the previous week when he missed the start over 1200m, then kicked two lengths clear by the 600m and approaching the home turn with 350m to go he was easily four lengths clear.

He was also running on empty – despite dropping from 60.5kg to 55.5kg in the space of seven days.

The Mark Nyhan-trained Jet Jackson ($6) found his second wind along the fence and Trevor Montgomerie’s $5.50 chance Well Known (Jarrod Todd) stormed home from the back of the field.

Bar Gem pipped Jet Jackson by a short half head, with Well Known only half a length away third.

Race 5 April 16, 2022 0-76 Handicap (Pioneer Park, Alice Springs, 1400m) – Bar Gem

Lisa Whittle’s Desert Lass (Paul Denton) caught the eye with the $6.50 hope finishing fast for fourth.

That now makes it six wins from 11 starts at Pioneer Park for Bar Gem and amazingly he hasn’t finished out of a place from 1000m-1400m.

He has also had nine starts in Darwin for five seconds before he finally got the cash in his most recent appearance at Fannie Bay over 1200m on November 20.

Connor took over from Norm Bracken as trainer of the horse with Bar Gem finishing first twice and second twice in his last four starts in Alice Springs.

Various South Australian venues accommodated Bar Gem in his other 13 starts for four placings with his best result a second at Morphettville Parks over 1400m (0-60) in March last year.

“He will probably miss a start in the Pioneer, but there is a benchmark 1400 on Cup Day,” Connor said.

“He loves it here, just loves the dirt and doesn’t put a foot wrong really.

“Norm Bracken bought him as a yearling and did great job with him.

“The horse is probably a little frustrating – his record should probably stand as one of those horses who had 20 starts for 10 wins.

“He’s his own worst enemy, gets himself beat in the gates most times and can quite easily miss the start which has brought him undone a few times – even for me.

“Bar Gem can really do things that are out of the ordinary some times.

“If he can get out he can just about run down anything if he’s close enough, especially around here.

“He’s a pretty handy horse and I was glad to get him.”

Connor is having a successful Alice Springs Cup Carnival thus far, especially when he was able to quinella the $50,000 NT Guineas (1600m) with three-year-olds Flying Start and Manhattan Man on Saturday.

And has Connor and his team recovered from the Guineas victory?

“Only just. That was a bit of a weekend I can give you the strong tip,” he said.

“I thought we had a good chance, no doubt about that.

The favourite (Dakota Lee) being scratched made it a hell of a lot easier, but even as it stood I thought we were always going to be a chance to win anyway.

“We’ll never know now. I was rapt with both horses to be honest and to run first and second was a real bonus.”

After being nominated, it seems unlikely Flying Start will line up in the $110,000 Ladbrokes Alice Springs Cup (2000m).

“I don’t think I will be going that way,” Connor said.

“I had a rush of blood after the Guineas win.”

Apart from the Cup Carnival, Connor has been making a few adjustments to his stable.

“Things have been ticking over alright,” he said.

“I sort of tipped a few horses out, just concentrate on some of the main ones that I’ve got in the stable.

“The rest of them can come back into work after the Carnival and carry on afterwards against weaker class.

“We’ve been trying to re-stock our stable – we had to retire a few recently.

“The use by date had come up, but most of them have gone to good homes.”

2022 NT Guineas (Pioneer Park, Alice Springs, 1600m) – Flying Start

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