Leech, Irwin & Hampson start Alice Springs Carnival with doubles

Darwin-based trainer Dick Leech (second right) with jockey Paul Shiers, stable foreman Lorraine Edwards and Alice Springs Turf Club chairman Craig Lambley after the win by Whitemore in the 2021 St Patrick’s Day Cup (1600m) at Pioneer Park

Trainers Dick Leech and Nicole Irwin, as well as apprentice jockey Jade Hampson, kicked off the Alice Springs Cup Carnival with winning doubles at Pioneer Park on Saturday.

Leech extended his lead in the Alice Springs and Provincial trainer’s premiership when $2.90 favourite Early Crow (Hampson) decimated his rivals by 6.4 lengths over 1200m (0-70).

It’s not the first time the four-year-old gelding has streeted his rivals after winning by 6.8 lengths over 1100m (BM54) on March 11 when he lumped 61.5kg with top Darwin jockey Jarrod Todd as the pilot.

Early Crow failed to fire when he was a last start fourth over 1400m (0-64) on March 19, but returning to a shorter trip was significant and the fact he only carried 55.5kg due to Hampson’s 2kg claim also helped.

Jumping from the inside gate, the son of Kuroshio and four rivals battled for the early lead before he settled out in front with Trevor Montgomerie’s Tanner (Casey Hunter) and Greg Connor’s Miles Prower (Lek Maloney).

The trio held sway approaching the final corner, but once straightening Early Crow shot away to make it three wins from eight NT starts for Leech with Connor’s Trystoff (Dan Morgan) and John Peacock’s Star Of Monsoon (Dakota-Lee Gillett) – both $31 hopes – coming from the rear to fill the minor placings.

Formerly trained in Queensland by Kacy Fogden, Early Crow has now posted five wins from 16 career starts.

8/4/23 Alice Springs Race 2 Replay – Early Crow

Leech’s four-year-old gelding Lunch Session ($6), who had only managed a third in his past seven starts, bounced back to form after leading all the way in open company over 1400m.

Lunch Session (Hampson), the winner of the Kununurra Cup (1800m) last August, backed up that effort with another win at the WA venue a week later, but since returning to Alice Springs he has battled to find form.

The six-year-old gelding, the son of Reward For Effort, had Nicole Irwin’s Starouz (Jarrod Todd) for company turning into the back straight as Terry Gillett’s Supreme Attraction (Gillett), who sat at the tail of the field, moved up to third from Carrol Hunter’s Desert Lass (Wayne Davis) and Russell Bell’s Wayanka (Maloney).

Bench Press (Sonja Wiseman), the $2.20 betting site favourite from the Gillett yard with six wins under his belt at Pioneer Park, settled at the rear in the six-horse field, but when called upon to make an impact he had nothing and finished last.

Only the second time in 14 starts since arriving in Alice Springs from the Robbie Griffiths and Matthew de Kock stable in Victoria the five-year-old gelding has either not won or ran a place.

In the end Lunch Session, who now boasts eight wins from 40 starts in Queensland, Victoria and the NT, was too good winning by two and a half lengths from Desert Lass ($16) and Starouz ($5.50).

Leech extended his lead in the Alice Springs and Provincial trainer’s premiership to 19 from former Red Centre trainer Lisa Whittle (15) and Connor (11).

8/4/23 Alice Springs Race 8 Replay – Lunch Session

Debuting on the Pioneer Park dirt the previous Saturday, the Irwin-trained Lastar from South Australia finished a disappointing sixth over 1100m (0-58).

It was a different story on Saturday with the four-year-old gelding outclassing his rivals with a comfortable win over 1200m (0-58) as the $3.30 favourite.

After 13 starts for Ballarat trainers Tony and Calvin McEvoy and Patrick Kearney, Lastar found a new at Irwin’s Murray Bridge complex and now has two wins from 14 career starts.

With Todd in the saddle, the son of Zoustar missed the start before finding the front by the 1000m and heading down the side with 600m to go he kicked away to lead by three lengths rounding the final corner.

Over the final 350m, Lastar was never in danger of the defeat despite Montgomerie’s Oddsock (Hunter – $3.80), second before slipping to third rounding the home turn, found her second wind in the final 100m to finish second by just over a length.

Kym Healy’s Scout’s Honour (Hampson), who was having it’s first NT start in the NT, settled midfield before working his way along the rails to take over in the second place, but the $6.50 fancy tired in the final 200m to finish third.

8/4/23 Alice Springs Race 3 Replay – Lastar

Eureka’s Victory ($21) was yet another debut winner at Pioneer Park when the four-year-old gelding left it late along the rails to make it a winning double for Irwin, the 2021 Darwin Cup winning trainer, over 1400m (0-70).

With local apprentice Gillett on board, Eureka’s Victory, who had 14 starts in Queensland for just one win in a 2170m maiden at Ipswich for former trainer Robert Heathcote in December, caught Gary Clarke’s Ironedge (Todd) right on the line.

Happy to settle midfield on the fence, Eureka’s Victory was by no means out of it as Ironedge ($7.50) led from Bell’s Arrogant Miss (Morgan), Angela Forster’s $13 hopeful Spielberg (Paul Denton) and Healy’s $2.80 fancy Wicked Addiction (Davis).

The order hardly changed turning for home and as Spielberg went after Ironedge, who had kicked two lengths clear at the 200m, Gillett’s patience was rewarded when her mount stormed home along the rails to catch the leader to win by a long head with Spielberg third.

Leech’s $2.45 favourite Lethal Encounter (Hampson), aiming for five straight wins, missed the start hopelessly and was well adrift of the field before rallying to finish sixth.

Wicked Addiction, placed in his last two starts at Morphettville, had every chance before fading for fifth, while Lamprecht’s Huckleberry (Ianish Luximon), a $101 pop, was far from disgraced completing the first four.

8/4/23 Alice Springs Race 7 Replay – Eureka’s Victory

Fittingly, Kerry Petrick, born and raised in the Red Centre, won the opening race on the program when four-year-old mare Real Devine ($10) finished strongly over 1200m (0-58).

Fifth along the back straight, Real Devine (Denton) made her move down the side before finding space in the home straight and although forced wide she hit the front with 200m to win easing up by 1.5 lengths.

Having won over 1100m (0-58) on January 21, Real Devine, the daughter of Real Saga, was unplaced in her next two starts before a last start third over 1200m (0-58) with her record now standing at two wins from 10 starts in the Alice and five wins from 34 career starts.

The leaders set a cracking pace early, so it came as no surprise that the back-markers finished strongly with the George Cooke’s Bean Shoppin’ (Phillip Crich – $9) and Healy’s Starlite Rebel (Hampson – $6.50) filling the minor placings.

Mark Nyhan’s Rojo Boom (Wiseman) looked a threat along the rails with 100m to go before finishing fourth, while Kevin Lamprecht’s $2.90 favourite Rupert’s Delight (Ianish Luximon) – who jumped from gate 10 – chewed up too much petrol and faded for fifth after leading swinging for home.

8/4/23 Alice Springs Race 1 Replay – Real Divine

Meanwhile, Fantasy Eagle ($5), who has been knocking on the door of late, finally delivered for trainer Will Savage with a narrow victory over 1400m (0-70).

Zacinto’s six-year-old gelding has been a model of consistency since arriving from the stable of Allan Denham in NSW, but up until Saturday had only posted one win in 12 starts since last May – that was over 1400m (0-70) on August 20.

There were seven seconds on that CV with Fantasy Eagle the runner up in his past four starts, so to make it six wins from 33 career starts came as no surprise although he was almost pipped at the post by Healy’s Magnossiva (Hampson).

It was a leisurely start with Barry Cooke’s Beatbox (Hunter) and Gillett’s Valley Prince (Gillett) skipping to the lead before Ray Viney’s $2.60 favourite Quizzle (Todd), seeking a third straight win, and Connor’s Triton Rising (Maloney) spiced things up.

Fantasy Eagle (fourth) and Magnossiva (fifth) were tailed off and Valley Prince started to lose touch with the leaders nearing the final turn as Beatbox, Quizzle and Triton Rising battled for the lead.

Quizzle kicked, Triton Rising held firm and Valley Prince rallied just as Fantasy Eagle swooped with Magnossiva ($5.50) producing a withering burst with 100m to go to just miss catching the leader by 0.02 lengths.

Valley Prince ($5.50) was third thus meaning the three riders selected to represent the NT in the 2023 National Apprentice Race Series – Luximon, Hampson and Gillett – completed the trifecta.

8/4/23 Alice Springs Race 9 Replay – Fantasy Eagle

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