Undefeated star Alice Springs filly Dakota Lee primed for NT Guineas

Terry Gillett and connections celebrate Dakota Lee’s fifth-straight victory in the $18,500 Indervon Petroleum Handicap (1100m) at Pioneer Park on March 5. Picture: Nikki Westover Photography.

In recent times Desert Lashes and Savatoxl made a huge impression in Alice Springs as two and three year olds.

They dominated in the Red Centre before achieving further success at the top level in South Australia and Victoria.

The pair certainly put Northern Territory racing on the map, with Savatoxl also showing his class during the 2020 Darwin Cup Carnival.

In 2016, Desert Lashes was unbeaten in her first five starts at Pioneer Park for trainer Lisa Whittle before winning three straight at Morphettville in Adelaide.

From 2018-2019, Savatoxl started out winning eight of his first nine starts in the Red Centre for trainer Will Savige – which included victory in the Chief Ministers Cup (1600m) before a next up third in the Alice Springs Cup (2000m).

Move over Desert Lashes and Savatoxl because the Terry Gillett-trained Dakota Lee is now following in their footsteps and is doing so with aplomb as the new darling of NT racing.

The three-year-old filly out of Kuroshio from Manzie De Lago is unbeaten in seven starts after debuting in Alice Springs in March last year.

Dakota Lee is a raging hot favourite to win the $50,000 Imparja NT Guineas (1600m) at Pioneer Park on Saturday – the feature race on Day 2 of the Alice Springs Cup Carnival.

The same race Savatoxl won in 2019 and just like Savatoxl, Dakota Lee won the 1400m lead up race – the first time she had attempted the distance – for the three-year-olds by five lengths on April 2.

Dakota Lee ended up in Alice Springs from the Inglis Melbourne Gold Yearling Sale – the same route Savatoxl, Desert Lashes, champion Northern Territory sprinter Periduki and Gillett’s outstanding miler That’s Justified endured.

“I bought her from the sale. Jonathan Darcy, who is the chief auctioneer for Inglis, is a real good mate of mine and he chooses horses out of the Gold Sale for me every year,” Gillett said.

“He gave me a call and he had two horses that he said that would suit me – one was Dakota Lee and the other one was from the same stock that That’s Justified is by Reward For Effort.

“After a discussion with colleagues, Andrew McClure elected to go with Dakota Lee.”

The new arrival, who had not yet acquired a name, settled into her new surroundings comfortably and according to Gillett the filly was a breath of fresh air.

“She was broken in. We got her going. She has been a little super star since day dot. She’s easy to deal with,” he said.

“Dakota Lee, my daughter, has done most of the work with her – so she got named after Dakota. Dakota rides track work and all the rest of the tasks with the horse.

“She’s probably the best horse I’ve ever had.”

Back in the day when Gillett resided in NSW, he trained horses with brother-in-law and former jockey Malcolm Johnston and during that period he dealt with a number of high quality fillies.

It’s early days, but Gillett rates Dakota Lee as good as them.

And it didn’t take the reigning champion Alice Springs trainer to identify that Dakota Lee had serious talent.

“From day dot. We get a couple of yearlings every year, but she couldn’t work with them,” Gillett said.

“She was beating the older horses, so we finally gave her a start in an open maiden last year as a two-year-old and she won.

“Miles Prower featured in that race as a four-year-old and he has gone on to be a good horse in Alice for trainer Greg Connor having won five of his 10 races.”

Negotiating 1600m for the first time can be daunting and an ordeal for a young horse.

Dakota Lee gets her first crack on Saturday and of the other eight horses in the Guineas only three have completed the trip.

Australia’s best horse racing betting sites have installed Dakota Lee the long odds-on -2000 favourite to make it eight wins from eight starts in the NT Guineas.

“Getting over longer journey is a bit of a mystery. She’s better than those who she has been racing against at the moment,” Gillett said.

Hard to argue – Dakota Lee has a rating of 80, while Flying Start and Real Devine are next best with 56.

“Other runners in the Guineas have 1600m form, but they haven’t done anything over the trip,” he added.

“None have run a place. They’ve all got a big question mark on them over the 1600.

“I know Dakota Lee is fit, she’s well, and she drops massively in weight and I believe she will run a mile out on Saturday.

“She’s been carrying 61kg. I think she will run the mile out easily. She drops from 61kg to 56kg.

“She’s well. She looks a treat. She’s eating up. She’s happy in her work. She worked sensational on Tuesday morning. She’s going into the race spot on.

“Dakota Lee is an on-pace runner. Everything going well, hopefully she can get the money.

“I’ve seen Kingston Town get beat. Anything is possible.

“After having a crack at the Guineas she’ll be off to Brisbane for the Winter Carnival for the sprint races.”

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