Wiseman, Crich at the double in Darwin

NT jockey Sonja Wiseman
Star NT jockey Sonja Wiseman was one of two riders to finish with a brace of winners at Fannie Bay on Saturday.

Sonja Wiseman and Phillip Crich were the standout performers during the Darwin meeting at Fannie Bay on Saturday, riding two winners apiece.

Wiseman (15) subsequently leapfrogged Jarrod Todd (14), the champion jockey in the Top End for the past three years, as the leading rider for the 2022/23 season.

Todd missed the meeting because of suspension, with Wiseman and Todd holding a big lead over the injured Paul Shiers (7), who is still sidelined; Vanessa Arnott (6), who is currently serving a suspension; Wayne Davis (5), who returned from injury on Saturday; and Stan Tsaikos (5).

A win at Pioneer Park on Sunday meant that 30-year-old Wiseman (16) has extended her lead over Jessie Philpot (9) in the Alice Springs premiership, and also holds a commanding 17-win lead over Todd (14), Tsaikos (13), Philpot (11), Crich (10) and Casey Hunter (10) in the overall NT standings.

Missing the first three months of the 2021/22 season, Wiseman finished third in the Top End premiership and fourth behind Tsaikos (35) in the Alice Springs premiership (20) with Tsaikos (53) also pipping Wiseman (49) for the most wins in the NT.

Crich, who was living in Murray Bridge after leaving the Top End, has made every post a winner since taking up residency in Alice Springs after riding during the Darwin Cup Carnival and at the three meetings staged at Kununurra in Western Australia in late winter and early spring.

In his past 35 rides in the Red Centre and Top End, the 53-year-old Crich has punched home 10 winners – that’s after landing three winners from 14 rides at Kununurra.

READ: Crich delighted with Ladies Day win at Kununurra

Wiseman’s double on Saturday was achieved on Mark Nyhan’s five-year-old mare Bat Pad over 1100m (BM76) and Angela Forster’s four-year-old gelding Hokolesqua over 1000m (0-64), while Crich also shared the spotlight with wins on Chris Nash’s four-year-old mare One For Anna in an 1100m maiden and Dick Leech’s six-year-old gelding War Games over 1100m (BM54).

Bat Pad ($4.40) sat outside Jason Manning’s Niewand (Tessa Townsend) in second place for a major portion of the race before taking over with 100m to go to seal victory from Gary Clarke’s $2.40 favourite Mr Cashman (Paul Denton), who finished strongly along the rails, and the fading Niewand ($3.70).

Darwin R2 replay | Bat Pad (1st)

After winning three straight Bat Pad finished fifth behind a dominate Mr Cashman over 1200m (BM70) on November 19, so it was a welcome return to form for the former Queensland galloper.

The lightly raced Hokolesqua ($2.40 fav) was a first-up second on his Darwin debut on Melbourne Cup Day over 1100m (Class 2), but the former Victorian galloper could not have been more impressive after lumping 60.5kg.

Sitting four wide with the early leaders, Hokolesqua eased off down the side before finishing strongly out wide in the closing stages to overcome Dick Leech’s last-start winner Flying Deputy (Crich), a $4.80 hope, with Clarke’s $4.60 chance Manly Cove (Denton) a distant third.

For Forster, it was her first win since $2.70 favourite Starouz (Sairyn Fawke) won the Tennant Creek Cup (1600m) on May 14.

One For Anna ($8.50) pinged out of gate six and was never headed with the former NSW galloper leading by two lengths at the 900m, by five lengths turning for home with 350m to go, and by six lengths at the 200m mark before saluting by eight and a half lengths.

It was an extraordinary effort after a first-up seventh at Fannie Bay over 1100m (Class 2) with One For Anna finally winning at the 11th attempt from fast-finishing pair Dreyfus (Davis), a $21 runner from the Phil Cole stable, and Brave Fling (Denton), the $2 favourite from the Clarke yard.

Darwin R3 replay | One For Anna (1st)

War Games ($5) was sitting in last place off the back in the eight-horse field before picking up pace down the side and once turning for home the former Victoria and NSW galloper continued to accelerate to post an emphatic win.

After having three runs in Kununurra without success in late August and early September, War Games managed a 10th and a third back at Fannie Bay in November – it was his first win in the Top End after saluting over 1100m (Class 2) in July during the Darwin Cup Carnival.

Jason Manning’s Light And Dark (Townsend) had an eventful build up to the race before finishing second, while Tom Logan’s $2.30 favourite Blueant (Wiseman) just lacked that spark before finishing third.

Light And Dark ($11) was highly cantankerous on his way to the gates with Townsend having to jump from the horse at the 1400m before grabbing the reins and running with the gelding in tow in a desperate bid to make it to the start in time.

Meanwhile, trainer Chloe Baxter made it five wins from just 11 career starts when four-year-old gelding To The Point (Hunter), who won an 1100m maiden on debut in Darwin on October 1, made it three wins from five starts with an outstanding win over 1300m (0-70).

It was a major step up in class and a rise in distance for the former Victorian galloper, but after settling behind the leaders along the rails in a tightly run affair To The Point ($12) found clear air once turning for home to overcome Clarke’s front-runners Siakam (Davis), a $3.20 equal favourite, and Obligatory (Denton), who started at $5.50.

Henestrosa (Denton), pipped at the post after holding a massive lead in an 1100m maiden on November 12, featured in another maiden over the same distance and after once again jumping to the lead the four-year-old gelding didn’t let the opportunity slip a second time.

Clarke’s former Victorian galloper ($1.95 fav), who managed an eighth and 11th in his first two starts in Darwin before a sixth at Katherine, registered a fifth, a third and that second back at Fannie Bay before finally tasting victory at the 11th attempt when he prevailed by over three lengths from Phil Cole stablemates Exgames (Ianish Luximon), starting at $14, and Flying Barty (Davis), who had support at $4.40.

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