Todd aims to defend Wet Season Series Final in Darwin

Leading Darwin jockey Jarrod Todd returns to the mounting yard after a recent win aboard the Gary Clarke-trained Tanaawol at Fannie Bay. Picture: Caroline Camilleri (Darwin Photography Professionals)

Leading NT jockey Jarrod Todd will be aiming to defend his title in the Darwin Turf Club’s Lightning Wet Season Series Final (1200m) at Fannie Bay on Friday.

Not only is it the feature event at 0-70 level during the annual Australia Day program, but it is also one of only two $40,000 races in the Top End outside the Darwin Cup Carnival.

Todd, who has won the Top End and Country jockeys’ premiership for the past four years, won the Lightning Wet Season Series Final last year aboard the Angela Forster-trained Zoumist.

The concept for the mid-range sprinters during the off-season started two years ago when Gary Clarke’s Blue Odyssey, with Barry Huppatz in the saddle, edged out stablemate Mr Cashman, ridden by Todd.

A pointscore system applies to qualify for the final and it’s optional for a trainer to nominate their horse for the final, but a horse must have contested one of the six heats.

Clarke, the Top End and Country’s leading trainer for the past 11 years, will have three runners in the nine-horse field on Friday with Todd riding Alpha Flight, Adam Nicholls partnering Patria and Aaron Sweeney accompanying Chief Mondo.

The Ella Clarke-trained Pop Magic and the Chris Pollard-trained Lucky Dog – second in the final last year – are the only heat winners in the final, while Patrick Johnston’s Ankle Rolex was the early $3.80 favourite with top horse racing bookmakers.

Clarke’s impressive Tanaawol, who won two of the six heats with Todd on board, didn’t accept for the final as the six-year-old gelding is recovering from a spider bite.

“Gary wasn’t able to get the work into him,” Todd said.

“Everything is all good with him, he just missed a gallop or two.

“He’s exciting and we were hoping to get him the final, but he wasn’t right and we took precaution.

“Gary is just going to have to wait for another day, but he’s back working now.”

Alpha Flight, a $10 quote on Wednesday, was formerly trained by Richard and Chantelle Jolly in Adelaide and debuted over 1100m (0-64) at Fannie Bay on December 30 finishing last in a field of eight as the $2.60 favourite.

A four-year-old gelding, the son of Akeed Mofeed had 15 starts in SA for three wins at Morphettville and placed on five other occasions in Adelaide.

“He had pretty good form before he came to the Clarke stable, I’m willing to just put a line through his first up run,” Todd said.

“He drew gate one and as we all know a lot of horses, when they get kick back for the first time, more often than not they don’t appreciate it.

“The first run is trial and error, so to speak.

“He just got caught in behind them and as soon as he got the kick back he didn’t want to go a yard.

“I’m hoping he’s got that out of the way – his work leading up to Friday has been good.

“If he does everything right and lives up to his prior form he is a chance.

“It probably would have been better had he drawn out a bit, but at the end of the day barrier four is better than one.

“If he jumps clean, he should be right up there in the first two or three.

“He has shown in the past that he’s got really good early speed.”

Todd, who has won a host of feature races in Darwin and Alice Springs, praised the field for Friday’s final, adding that there were plenty of hopes.

“It’s actually a nice little compact field – there are many dangers,” he said.

“Pop Magic is in very good form – he’s definitely going to be hard to beat.

“You can’t discard Lucky Dog – in these sort of races he’s very competitive and ran second in last year’s final.”

With 26 wins this season, Todd – 10 wins clear of apprentice Emma Lines in the Top End and Country jockey’s premiership – is hoping to go back to back on Friday.

And he certainly endorses the Lightning Wet Season Series.

“It’s a good incentive, especially during the wet season, which is our off-season,” he said.

“It can get quiet at this time of year, but I’m a fan of the series.

“We’re pretty lucky during Carnival time with all the good races, but a $40,000 race in January is great.

“I’m still enjoying Darwin, in fact I’m loving it, and obviously we have wet conditions at the moment, but looking ahead I’m looking forward to the Carnivals that are coming up.”

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