Wilsons Prom eyes St Patrick’s Day Cup at Darwin

Adam Nicholls & Wilsons Prom
Adam Nicholls and the Gary Clarke-trained Wilsons Prom combined for another win in Darwin on Friday, with the five-year-old gelding also breaking the 1600m track record at Fannie Bay. Picture: Caroline Camilleri (Darwin Photography Professionals)

Wilsons Prom could provide Darwin trainer Gary Clarke with his fourth St Patrick’s Day Cup (1600m) in five years after Friday’s slashing win at Fannie Bay.

In a display that mirrored his last start win, the five-year-old gelding made it four wins from five starts by decimating his rivals by six lengths over 1600m (0-76).

Two weeks ago, the son of Xtravagent, lumping 60.5kg, finished 6.5 lengths clear over 1600m (0-64) after sharing the early lead before sprinting clear.

Adam Nicholls once again partnered Wilsons Prom (57.5kg), the $1.65 favourite with horse racing bookmakers on Friday.

Sandwiched between fellow leaders Command King, who held the fence, and Hong Kong Fighter along the back straight, Wilsons Prom forged ahead at the 600m and was two lengths clear at the home turn with 350m remaining.

By the 200m, he was four lengths clear before going on to break the 1600m track record set by Dominus (1:34.22) in June 2022 after clocking 1:34.03.

Wilsons Prom outclassed stablemate Vallabar ($5), third in the 2022 Darwin Cup, while Angela Forster’s Volatore ($4.80) pipped stablemate Command King for third.

Arriving two years ago from Ciaron Maher and David Eustace’s stable in Victoria, Wilsons Prom had little impact in the three-year-old features during the Darwin Cup Carnival.

Since June 2023, the gelding has had nine starts and finished second on four occasions before his four wins.

The rain and mud on Australia Day proved a hurdle when 11th over 1300m (BM73).

The $40,000 St Patrick’s Day Cup (1600m) at 0-76 level on March 16 is likely to be Wilsons Prom’s next assignment, a race Clarke has mortgaged recently with Java (2020), Count Of Essex (2022) and Siakam (2023).

Meanwhile, Clarke’s eight-year-old mare Bel’s Banner (Jarrod Todd), a $4.60 hope, finished strongly over the concluding 100m to overcome stablemates Siakam ($10) and Desert Dreamer ($5) in an open 1200m handicap.

For the daughter of Starspangledbanner, it was her first win in 10 starts after saluting on Anzac Day last year.

Desert Dreamer, camped on the rails, Siakam and Phil Cole’s in-form Cielo D’Oro ($2.25), who sat three deep, shared the early lead with Bel’s Banner trailing in fourth place.

With 200m to go, Bel’s Banner joined the leaders after splitting Desert Dreamer and Siakam, who was having his first start since Darwin Cup Day last August, and a big finish loomed before the mare got home by a length.

After riding a winning double for trainers Tayarn Halter and Dick Leech at the start of February, apprentice Jade Hampson repeated the dose at the end of the month.

Halter’s Tyquendo ($8), back after five months, exited the outside gate in the nine-horse field over 1100m (0-58) with the five-year-old gelding producing an outstanding performance.

Settling midfield, the son of Outreach sat three or four deep for the entire trip and with 100m to go he battled it out with three opponents before toppling Tom Logan’s Wolf Queen ($21) and Chris Pollard’s Overruled ($11).

Hampson timed her run perfectly in the 1200m maiden when Leech’s Mutany ($3.60), a four-year-old gelding by Xtravagent, caught Clarke’s Debating ($2.50) – easily two lengths clear at the 200m – right on the line to salute by a long head, with Cole’s Proklisi ($5) third.

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