He has been the dominant trainer in Alice Springs in recent times, so it came as no surprise that Terry Gillett celebrated a treble on the opening day of the 2022 Alice Springs Cup Carnival on Saturday.
Gillett, who took out the Alice Springs and Provincial trainers’ premiership last season with 26 winners, boosted his tally to 27 for the 2021/22 season at Pioneer Park.
The former jockey has now extended his lead over Lisa Whittle in the trainers’ premiership to seven.
Old marvel That’s Justified (Jarrod Todd) made it 20 wins from 57 starts in the $25,000 Yeperenye Shopping Centre Handicap (1400m) lumping 63kg in the process.
It might have been a field of just five starters, but That’s Justified ($3) spotted his rivals 6.5kg and had to work hard throughout before getting the cash.
Jumping from the outside gate, the seven-year-old gelding never got to settle on the fence and was camped outside eight-year-old gelding Exonerate (Wayne Davis) and stablemate Valley Prince (Stan Tsaikos) – the $2.05 favourite.
As Exonerate ($10) and That’s Justified took over in front Wayanka (Lorelle Crow) went for broke on the outside along the back straight and turning for home That’s Justified was positioned between both rivals.
After shaking Wayanka ($7), That’s Justified and the brave Exonerate then battled it out down the home straight before Gillett’s galloper prevailed by a head.
That’s Justified will now be set for the Chief Ministers Cup (1600m) on April 23, a weight-for-age event he won last year.
“That’s Justified, well he’s probably the best miler and 1400m horse in the Territory,” Gillett said.
“I wouldn’t say he is the best horse in the Territory, but he’s going good – he carries big weights, he’s tough.
“The old horse carrying 63kg – he did the bullocking of the work and toughed it out.
“What can you say about him – he’s done just about everything.”
Future plans have been devised for That’s Justified, which also includes a trip to Queensland.
Gillett is eyeing the $125,000 Battle Of The Bush, a series that will see 16 qualifiers from country regions in Queensland qualify for the final at Eagle Farm on June 20.
“He’ll run towards the Chief Ministers weight for age – then I will see if I can get him qualified for the Battle Of The Bush,” Gillett said.
“You’ve got to race somewhere over in Queensland and finish in the first two.”
Gillett was philosophical about the performance of the in-form Valley Prince, who tailed off to finish last.
“They wanted to all fight for the lead, so Stan elected to grab hold and slot him in behind,” he said.
“He didn’t like being caught on the fence in the dirt and threw the white flag in, so it is what it is.
“He’ll live to fight another day.
“He’s sort of got to have a bit of luck to go his own way.”
Gillett also celebrated success in the other feature race at Alice Springs on Saturday when Supreme Times (Stan Tsaikos) won the $25,000 Seppelt Wines Handicap (1100m).
That made it four straight wins for the six-year-old gelding since February and secured Supreme Times ($2.05 fav) a start in the $100,000 Pioneer Sprint (1200m) on May 1.
Stablemate Duke Of Hearts (Jarrod Todd) jumped to an early lead before having Supreme Times and Addictions (Sonja Wiseman) for company.
The trio kicked right away and once turning for home before Supreme Times clicked into gear to overcome a persistent Addictions ($4) by just over a length with Duke Of Hearts ($4.80) a distant third.
“Supreme Times has been racing well and had to win, so his done that, so he can now go into the Pioneer Sprint,” Gillett said.
Bench Press (Stan Tsaikos) was the other winner for the stable when the four-year-old gelding saluted in the $20,000 Araluen Taxation Services 0-66 Handicap (1400m).
Starting as a $1.55 favourite, Bench Press settled fourth behind the runaway leaders before making his move with 600m to go.
After weaving his way through the field Bench Press was going to prove hard to beat in the home straight before outlasting the brave Celine (Jessie Philpot), a $12 chance who was among the early leaders, and the fast-finishing Lady Satab (Jarrod Todd), an $8.50 hope.
“Bench Press is an up and coming horse – that was his fourth win from nine starts,” Gillett said.
A winning double for Tsaikos made it 32 wins for the season for the reigning champion jockey in the Red Centre, which also extended his lead over Paul Denton to 12.
Meanwhile, Gillett’s rising young star Dakota Lee, a three-year-old filly, looks set to accompany That’s Justified to Queensland.
Unbeaten in seven starts and clearly the one to beat in the $50,000 NT Guineas next Saturday, Dakota Lee is aiming to make it back to back wins in the feature three-year-old event for Gillett following Valley Prince’s triumph last year.
“I’m going to take Dakota Lee over for the three-year-old races in Brisbane,” Gillett said.
“Dakota Lee is going good.
“She will run in the Guineas next week and then she’ll have a couple of weeks off – and then I will get her ready for Queensland.”