Watch out Alice Springs if Davis lands feature double

It’s not unusual to see Darwin-based jockey Wayne Davis celebrate a win in style when he returns to the mounting yard.

Veteran NT jockey Wayne Davis always lights up a racetrack no matter where he rides.

There’s the beaming smile and the thumbs up when he wins, but rest assured the arm is raised and there’s plenty of first pumping when he wins a big race.

He might be 52, but he just can’t hide that excitement and the adrenalin was pumping through his veins last Saturday when he got the Phil Cole-trained Saccharo home in the $40,000 Chief Ministers Cup (1600m) at Alice Springs.

Davis, the only Group 1 winning jockey based in the NT after guiding Acushla Marie to victory in the Winfield Classic (now known as the Coolmore Classic) at Rosehill in 1992, will partner Saccharo in the $110,000 Alice Springs Cup (2000m) on Sunday.

The seven-year-old gelding, formerly with the Archie Alexander stable in Ballarat, is considered a major hope in the Red Centre’s biggest race and was the second betting site favourite on Friday at $5 behind the Dick Leech’s Write Your Name ($3.40).

It will be some celebration if Saccharo wins the Cup as Davis, who was out of action for a few weeks late last year following a fall during trackwork at Fannie Bay, is without question among the more popular figures in NT racing.

He has already won two NT features after guiding Clam’s Comet to victory in the 1992 Darwin Cup for Cranbourne trainer Tony Harrison and Kingston Sea to success in the 2006 Pioneer Sprint for Adelaide trainer Byron Cozamanis.

Saccharo’s form fluctuated when he arrived in the Top End last year before finishing second in the Katherine Cup (1700m) and winning the Birdsville and Bedourie Cups (1600m) in Queensland.

Before heading to Queensland, Saccharo’s only win at Fannie Bay was on Darwin Cup Day (August 1) in open company over 1600m and he might well pull off the biggest win of all on Alice Springs Cup Day.

Returning from a spell on Australia Day, the son of Magnus finished fourth in open company over 1300m in the Top End before winning two straight in open class over 1200m in February and 1300m in March.

He was pushed to the limit in the Chief Ministers Cup (WFA) last Saturday having travelled wide throughout before posting a narrow win over fellow Alice Springs Cup starters Fantasy Eagle and Bench Press, which also raises another question.

Saccharo has never raced beyond 1700m in 40 starts and will carry an extra 0.5kg in the Cup (59.5kg), but for Davis it’s water off a duck’s back.
“In my book it’s not a concern at all,” he said.

“Alice Springs being a very flat track, there will be a solid tempo in the race and from a lovely barrier (five) he’s going to have a beautiful run in transit and he’s a horse that doesn’t get into speed battles or starts pulling.

“He’ll be sneaking into the race from the 600m and at the top of the straight I’ll hopefully get him into the clear and by all means he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

“Because he settles so well in his races, I’m super confident that the trip won’t be an issue.

“Obviously his confidence would be through the roof after the Chief Ministers.”

Davis winning the Alice Springs Cup will be a sight to see, but he could be doing handstands if he also wins the $100,000 Pioneer Sprint (1200m) on Smuggling for the Cole stable.

Smuggling, a 10-year-old gelding, is aiming to win the race for the third straight year after winning the 2021 and 2022 editions with Jason Maskiell, who plys his trade in Victoria and Tasmania, in the saddle.

After finishing second in the Palmerston Sprint (1200m) in Darwin last July, Smuggling only had three starts before rocketing home to finish third behind Savatoxl and Expert Witness over 1200m (WFA) last Saturday.

It would be sensational, but the son of Wanted, an $18 hope on Friday, is a genuine contender despite drawing gate 11 – he’ll jump from 10 if the emergencies don’t start.

“I’m really happy to draw out of the traffic because there’s so much speed in the race and he’s a horse that does get back a bit in his races,” Davis said.

“I wasn’t going to be all that rapt if he drew one, two or three because he would have had horses all around him and tiring horses coming back on his lap.

“On the corner we’re thinking he’ll have cover with the hot speed and then get into the open when it’s time to get going and be on top of them rather than trying to look for nitty gritty runs competing with tiring horses.”

Suffice to say it could end up being a big day for Davis.

“My confidence is sky high,” he said.

“Both are very good horses and they’re really on top of the world – they’re flying.

“I except them to be major players in the features, yes.

“It’s all about opportunity and chance, if you don’t get the opportunity you don’t get the chance.

“This year, I’ve got a chance to pull the big double off.”

2023 Alice Springs Cup Tips

Dylan Bairstow (Alice Springs Race-Caller) Selections:

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