After a first up win in Alice Springs on Saturday, former Queensland galloper Devil’s Temptation is now a strong fancy for the $100,000 Pioneer Sprint (1200m) on May 1.
Under the guidance of trainer Jess Gleeson, the five-year-old gelding made a big impression when he overcame a handy field of sprinters to take out the $30,000 Ladbrokes “The Soldier” Lightning Handicap (1000m).
The Lightning is one of the lead up races before the Pioneer Sprint, which is the Alice Springs Turf Club’s second biggest race of the year behind the $110,000 Alice Springs Cup.
Both feature races are scheduled on the final day of the Alice Springs Cup Carnival on the first Sunday in May at Pioneer Park.
Devil’s Temptation had raced on 21 occasions in south-east Queensland, including appearances at Eagle Farm, Toowoomba, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, boasting five wins and six minor placings.
Although he has never raced beyond 1100m he certainly had the runs on the board, but there is always a question mark about new arrivals when they first experience the dirt of Central Australia.
They either deliver or implode, but having not raced since January 7 the new addition to the Gleeson stable passed the test with flying colours.
“We were hoping for a good run. He was always questionable first up on the dirt, but you know he is fast as his form does say,” Gleeson said.
“So we thought we’d be there. He trailed pretty good before he raced, so we were happy with him going into it.
“He was happy. He was well. He’s fit. He’s healthy. He was bouncing around the place.
“We were confident, but we probably didn’t know that he was going to come out and win – but we’re definitely happy with the result anyway.”
Jumping nicely from a middle gate in the six-horse field, Devil’s Temptation (Jarrod Todd) was sitting three wide behind in-form -153.85 favourite with online bookmakers Our Luca (Casey Hunter) from the Kerry Petrick yard, and Russell Bell’s +3000 outsider Arrogant Miss (Lorelle Crow).
Approaching the home turn little changed before highly respected NT sprinter Eastwood (Paul Shiers), who was making his first appearance for trainer Tayarn Halter since last September, made his move on the outside.
Trevor Montgomerie’s +400 chance Bryan’s Babe (Jessie Philpot) looked for a gap along the rails, while Lisa Whittle’s +850 hope Mathematics (Paul Denton) started to wind up.
In the home straight, Devil’s Temptation seemingly found another gear as he accelerated to eventually hit the front as Eastwood (+650) gave chase.
In the end the new arrival to the Red Centre prevailed by a length, but second-placed Eastwood and third-placed Bryan’s Babe were far from disgraced with the Pioneer Sprint in mind.
Our Luca had every opportunity, but after three wins and two seconds in his past five starts the bubble burst as he faded to finish behind Mathematics and Arrogant Miss.
“Devil’s Temptation is a ripper of a horse – so placid and nice. He is a gentleman to have around the place,” Gleeson said.
“He has pulled up well, which is the main thing, and will go to the Sprint.
“He is untried over the distance over the 12, so we’ll have a crack at it anyway to see how he goes.
“There’s the (Simone Montgomerie) Lightning race in Darwin on Cup Day in August and hopefully he can go to that as well.”
Gleeson has got nine horses in work at the moment and only recently acquired another horse from Queensland for the Pioneer Sprint.
Glock, a five-year-old gelding, raced in NSW before arriving in Queensland and boasts a record of 29 starts for six wins and eight minor placings.
At his last start on April 2, Glock finished seventh over 1000m against 0-72 opposition at Eagle Farm.
“Glock is untried on the dirt too, but has good synthetic form,” Gleeson said.
“We’ll try and get a trial. If not we’ll definitely give him a jump out.
“It’s crucial. They’ve got to jump out on the dirt before they race.
“We did the same thing with Devil’s Temptation.
“We’ll hopefully have two in the Sprint and see how we go I suppose.”