Mighty Murt will be out to continue his great form in the NT at Alice Springs on Saturday.
The six-year-old gelding, who is owned by Darwin trainer Garry Lefoe, arrived back from the Top End and was victorious over 1200m at BM76 level a fortnight ago when he toppled last year’s Pioneer Sprint (1200m) winner Supreme Attraction.
The son of Murtajill faces a high-quality field over 1100m (BM76) this weekend – with most of the seven runners stepping up their preparations for the Pioneer Sprint on April 6.
Terry Gillett’s Great Buy, Dick Leech’s Kerioth and Ray Viney’s Kickatorp pose serious threats to Mighty Murt, while Leech’s Madam Mischief, Gillett’s Brat and Will Savage’s Broad Outlook complete the field.
Mighty Murt saluted for Lefoe on January 27, but as is normally the case he represents the Lisa Whittle stable in Alice Springs.
Top End apprentice Jade Hampson retains the ride on Mighty Murt on Saturday after partnering the horse for the first time when a narrow third behind Tubthumper Cielo D’Oro over 1200m (BM75) at Fannie Bay in early December.
In his past six starts, the gelding has managed four wins, a second and a third.
Hampson agrees that Mighty Murt faces a solid test this weekend, but she can’t fault his form.
“It looks to be a strong race, but he’s going good and I think he’s going to continue that way,” she said.
“Between Garry, Lisa and Tayarn, they’ve just worked him out.
“He’s also just a tough little horse, he’s got so much speed.
“He just jumps and runs – they’ve got him going really well.”
After dealing with Supreme Attraction, who spotted Mighty Murt 5.5kg late last month, Great Buy, a last start winner over 1200m in open company on December 17 will keep Hampson on her toes.
“Great Buy is going to be hard to beat, he was in good form last prep,” Hampson said.
“I definitely respect Kerioth, he impressed last year when he arrived in Alice, and I hear he is going well as he prepares to return from a spell.
“Kickatorp has got good form as well, and I have also won a couple of races on Madam Mischief.
“Mighty Murt doesn’t need to lead, so we’ll just see what they all want to do.”
The cards fell Mighty Murt’s way against Supreme Attraction, so Hampson hopes history will repeat itself against Great Buy.
It’s unlikely Great Buy will give Mighty Murt a six-length start passing the 800m, which was the case with Supreme Attraction, who couldn’t bridge the gap despite winding up in the home straight.
“He jumped really quick that day, a lot quicker than he normally does, and we shared the early lead,” Hampson added.
“From barrier five, we just came across and it worked out super for us.
“Supreme Attraction didn’t run on as good as it normally does, while Mighty Murt just kept batting away.
“He’s just in a different mindset at the moment, he’s going really well.
“I think he’s definitely on the right track heading to the Pioneer Sprint.”
Mighty Murt has returned to the Red Centre to prepare for the revamped Alice Springs Cup Carnival which starts on March 17.
“The way that the races are panning out, it made more sense to send him to Alice Springs early,” Hampson said.
“There were just no races for him in Darwin and the prizemoney is going to be better in Alice Springs soon, so he’ll stay there for the Carnival.
“We’ll have to see what happens, but it would be nice to ride Mighty Murt in the Pioneer Sprint.
“I’m definitely chasing that race this year after coming second last year on Expert Witness.”