After serving a 15-month suspension, Darwin trainer Garry Lefoe returns to Fannie Bay on Saturday.
Lefoe, a prominent figure in Alice Springs and Darwin for over 20 years, will start five-year-old gelding Rising Fire over 1600m against 0-58 opposition.
Rising Fire, second in the Darwin Guineas and third in the NT Derby during the 2022 Darwin Cup Carnival, had Sunshine Coast trainer Billy Healey in his corner when he returned to Queensland.
Top End trainer Tom Logan then cared for the son of Headwater when he headed back to the NT in July.
It was in June last year, a month before the Darwin Cup Carnival, when Lefoe was banned by Thoroughbred Racing NT stewards after a series of positive drug tests on his horses from January to April.
“Obviously been out a while now, so chomping at the bit to get back into it and move on,” the trainer said.
“Looking back, it is what it is.
“I can’t deny it or escape it, can I?
“Just cop it on the chin.
“I’ve done my time.
“My disqualification was 15 months, so when that time was up I just got all my horses back.
“It’s now just a case of having the horses ready for the right race.”
Most of Lefoe’s horses remained in Darwin during his suspension.
“The bulk of my horses went between Tayarn Halter and Tom Logan,” he said.
“With Rising Fire, I bought the horse as a two-year-old at the Gold Coast Magic Millions Ready To Run Sale and I had him over there in Queensland with Billy Healey.
“He raced in Queensland, and then it was decided to bring him to Darwin.
“I got him up here and had him in work for the Guineas and the Derby where he ran a place in both races.
“I actually had him for a lot of the prep before I got outed a week before the Guineas and that’s when Billy came up and took over from me.”
Rising Fire won on debut in a 1300m Gold Coast maiden in October 2021 but didn’t return until the following March, when he ran sixth over 1400m in BM65 class at the Sunshine Coast.
Two fourths over 1350m at Ipswich and over 1600m at Eagle Farm at Class 1 level followed before coming second over 2000m on the Sunshine Coast’s synthetic surface at Class 3 level.
Returning to Queensland following his Fannie Bay debut, Rising Fire had five starts from January-March with his best result a second in Class 2 grade over 1540m on Gold Coast’s synthetic surface.
A first-up 10th over 1300m in 0-62 grade back in Darwin in July was followed by a third against the same class over the same distance on August 7 – Darwin Cup Day.
Rising Fire finished fourth over 1700m against 0-64 opposition at Katherine on August 19 before a second over 1600m and a fourth over 1300m at 0-58 level in September.
“I don’t know how it’s all going to pan out this weekend,” Lefoe said.
“The horse goes pretty good, but he is at the end of a pretty long prep.
“Win, lose or draw he will be going to the paddock, but I think he will give a bold showing.”
It shouldn’t take Lefoe long to again leave his mark on NT racing.
“Two horses Tayarn Halter had for me, Expert Witness and Canton Kid, I’ve got them back,” Lefoe said.
“Expert Witness, he’s above average as a sprinter, I bought him the same time I got Rising Fire.
“I’ve got Mighty Murt, who is down in Alice Springs, but he will be coming up here after he races on Sunday.
“I’ve also got a couple of new ones and I’ve got plenty of good owner support behind me, which is a really good.”
Lefoe has celebrated big wins in Darwin with Niccoco in the Palmerston Sprint, Budget King in the NT Derby, and Brunswick Street in the Darwin Guineas, as well as Alice Springs Cup success with I Am The Fox.
“In 12 months, I’d like to say that I won the Darwin Cup,” he said.
“Never had a runner in Alice Springs’ Pioneer Sprint, so I’ll try and win that too.
“My focus is always on the big races over carnival in Darwin and Alice Springs, so my intention is to have the stable built up enough and have the horse calibre to aim for them again.
“I’ve got eight or nine on the books at the moment and I’m happy ticking along the way I’m going for now.
“Obviously there’s room for growth, we’ll be getting a bit bigger as we go along and get into it a bit more.”