Although they will take on good opposition, Darwin trainer Garry Lefoe remains hopeful that Canton Kid and Barragunda can deliver at Fannie Bay on Friday.
Canton Kid, a six-year-old gelding, hasn’t been spotted since Darwin Cup Day in early August and lines up in Heat 5 of the Summer Sprint Series (1100m) at 0-76 level.
Barragunda, also a six-year-old gelding, returns after winning his first Top End race at the seventh attempt a fortnight ago over 1200m in 0-70 grade.
After starting his career in NSW for Sydney trainer Mark Newnham for one win from six starts, Canton Kid debuted for Lefoe in May 2021 and saluted over 1100m in 0-64 grade.
Since then, the son of Written Tycoon has had 21 starts in Darwin and one start in Katherine for a further four wins, finishing in the top four on 18 occasions.
During last year’s Darwin Cup Carnival he won by 5.3 lengths over 1100m against 0-66 opposition before a last-start win by 3.3 lengths over 1200m in the 0-70 ranks where he broke the track record.
Darwin Race 2 replay (19/7/2023) – Canton Kid
Canton Kid stopped the clock at 1:07.09 to eclipse the time of 1:07.42 set by Jade City, who won the 2007 and 2008 Palmerston Sprint (1200m), in June 2007.
Lefoe was serving a suspension at the time, with Canton Kid under the care of trainer Tayarn Halter.
With two wins and two seconds following a spell in the past, Canton Kid cannot be dismissed on Friday; however, the opposition in the six-horse field is above average.
Having returned to training late last year, Lefoe agrees that winning won’t be easy, but he isn’t waving the white flag.
“He’s back from a break after racing well and he generally goes well fresh,” he said.
“Tayarn had him going good, he was flying.
“Let’s just see how he goes this prep, but I expect him to go well.
“I reckon he’ll run a good race on Friday, he should be thereabouts.
“He really improved last prep – he stood up – and hopefully he can keep it up and improve this prep.
“All of his siblings are decent horses, so it just took him a little longer to mature.”
Chris Nash’s Son Of Bielski was the early +220 favourite, while Gary Clarke’s Patriotic King and Phil Cole’s El Magnificence must be respected.
There is likely to be a mad dash for the early lead on Friday, but according to Lefoe it won’t affect Canton Kid — regardless of whether he leads or sits off the pace.
“There will be plenty of speed — there’s probably four leaders in the race,” he said.
“We’ll just have to wait and see where he ends up and how the race pans out, I’ll just leave that up to Shiersy (jockey Paul Shiers).”
And there was a reason why Canton Kid was off the scene for six months.
“Just gave him a longer break because it was really hot during build up,” Lefoe said.
“I took my time with him, plus there wasn’t too much on the program for him.
“This was the first suitable race for him, so after Friday we’re probably going to have to go to Alice Springs for the carnival.
“There’s not too many races for open-class sprinters here between now and the Alice Springs Cup Carnival, so to a degree you’re forced to take them down there.”
Barragunda was pushed to the limit before finishing strongly on Australia Day, and he too will have his hands full when he faces six other runners over 1200m on Friday.
Bon’s Pride, striving to make it three straight wins for Jason Manning, was the early +140 favourite with online bookmakers.
After two seconds from five starts for Halter and then Tom Logan, Barragunda returned to Lefoe’s stable and was fifth over 1100m on December 30.
He boasted good form in Victoria for Cranbourne trainer Lloyd Kennewell, with two wins from 12 starts.
“I paid $42,000 for Barragunda in an Inglis Online Sale in March 2022 – he is by I Am Invincible,” Lefoe said.
“He’s been frustrating for his owners, but he has had problems during his career.
“However, he’s a horse with plenty of class when you get him right.
“Touch wood, we’ve got him right at the moment and he came through that last run pretty well.
“He is stepping up in grade as there wasn’t a suitable race in his grade for the distance I wanted with him.
“He won well last start and I expect him to go well again on Friday, I just hope he can keep plugging away.
“It’s a good field — he’s only a 62-rater, but I think he will handle himself.”