Pegus chasing Top End Melbourne Cup Day success

Mark Pegus on Lake's Folly at Darwin
Mark Pegus, the Stawell-based jockey, is likely to return to Victoria following the Darwin meeting at Fannie Bay on Melbourne Cup Day after spending the last six months riding in the NT. (Photo: Caroline Camilleri – Darwin Photography Professionals)

Victorian jockey Mark Pegus has a full book of rides at Darwin on Tuesday, but he will allow his mind to wonder slightly during the running of the Melbourne Cup.

The first race at Fannie Bay is scheduled for 1.45pm local time (3.15pm AEDT) – 15 minutes after Australia’s famous race has been run and won.

Pegus and fellow riders may get the opportunity to watch the race that “stops the nation” before heading to the mounting yard.

No doubt Pegus, the 45-year-old jockey based out of Stawell, will reminisce as he was fortunate to have success at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day.

In 2008, Pegus guided $26 chance Juggle The Books to victory for trainer Jarrod McLean.

In 2009, Pegus saluted aboard $14 hope Right Fong for trainer David Balfour.

“It’s a huge thrill to ride on Cup Day – massive crowd, it’s a real buzz,” Pegus said.

“It’s the biggest stage for racing in Australia at that time of year.

“I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve ridden at Flemington on Cup Day.

“The best part of my career was 2007 and 2008, I was going quite well.

“It’s exciting when you straighten up and you think you’re a chance and you go past the post first.

“It’s remarkable because that’s what you aim for as a kid – to be there on the big days.

“When you come back and all the owners are there – they don’t care whether they’ve won the Cup or just any race on Cup Day, they’re just excited.

“Obviously, I’ve got a lot of friends that are still riding and training in Melbourne that are actually involved in the Cup this year.”

Pegus, who has ridden in the Top End regularly over the years and won the 2007 Darwin Cup on General Market for trainer Michael Hickmott, believes he has an even book of rides at Fannie Bay on Tuesday.

He will partner Syncline, a former Palmerston Sprint winner, and Athletica for trainer Gary Clarke, Bartolini for Phil Cole, Just Strolling for Peter Stennett, Bart’s Bullet for Chris Pollard, and Gunshot Glitter for Ella Clarke.

“I haven’t got one that really stands out,” Pegus said.

“Ella’s horse in the maiden ran second the other day.

“It’s drawn a bit ordinary in gate 11, but it’s probably the one to beat.

“I’ve got Athletica, who is returning from a spell, it’s probably the class horse in the race.

“Got a bit of weight (62kg), but if it gets a nice run you’d think it would be hard to beat.

“And then old Syncline, he’s got form behind the good sprint horses like Ideas Man, so hopefully he’s in the right race on Tuesday.”

Just Strolling is a huge chance, while Bartolini and Bart’s Bullet are decent prospects.

Pegus hinted that he is likely to return to Victoria after Tuesday’s meeting.

He arrived in May where he has also ridden at Alice Springs and Tennant Creek.

To post 15 wins is a respectable and on October 7 he made it 1000 career wins when he saluted aboard the Chris Nash-trained Son Of Bielski at Darwin.

“I came up for the Carnival and I’ve been back and forth to Melbourne a bit,” Pegus said.

“I’ll probably go back after Melbourne Cup Day and I might do a bit more riding back in Victoria.

“Poke around in the bush for a while and see where it leads to.”

Pegus’ riding career started in 1999, but he retired in 2017 before making a comeback at St Arnaud on Cox Plate Day last year.

One of his biggest wins was in 2008 in the Group 1 Goodwood Handicap (1200m) at Morphettville on Shadoways for trainer Gwenda Johnstone.

Pegus took out his trainer’s licence in 2019 and after his first victory with Veraj at Yea in January 2020 he now boasts 20 wins.

He always enjoys his time in the Top End and expects to return once again in 2024.

“Yeah, I’ll be back up here for the Carnival next year, no doubt,” Pegus said.

“I might even bring a couple of horses up again like I did this year.

“Nashy and I, even during the Carnival, we’ve had a good run.

“We had Ideas Man and now Son Of Bielski has won his last three.

“It’s a great spot up here and I’ve had a great time, but it’s starting to get hot.

“The lifestyle is pretty cruisy and they only race on Saturday.

“I get to do a bit of fishing and I’ve been out and had a look around a few different places, so it’s been good.”

Back to the Melbourne Cup.

“I think Without A Fight will win,” Pegus said.

“I think they’ve taken the right path with him and I think Mark Zahra has chosen the right way.”

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