Wiseman extends premiership lead with Alice Springs double

Gillett and Wiseman with Bench Press
Alice Springs trainers Leanne and Terry Gillett, as well as winning jockey Sonja Wiseman from Darwin, celebrate after Bench Press took out the main race at Pioneer Park on Saturday.

If Saturday’s meeting is any guide, then there are a host of horses to keep an eye on with the Alice Springs Cup Carnival less than two months away.

Every winner on the five-event program at Pioneer Park could not have been more impressive.

Additionally, Top End jockey Sonja Wiseman extended her lead in the Alice Springs premiership with a winning double to make it 20 wins for the season from Jessie Philpot (10), who also had a winner on the day.

Wiseman rode a double at Darwin on Friday to make it 21 winners in the Top End premiership and heads Jarrod Todd (18), the champion rider for the past three years.

READ: Nyhan celebrates Darwin double with Rojo Boom, Halogem

Saturday’s feature race was over 1200m (0-70) with the Leanne Gillett-trained Bench Press (Wiseman) bouncing back from a last-start sixth on December 18 to seal victory with a powerful finishing burst.

Lumping 61kg and jumping from the outside gate in the seven-horse field, the five-year-old gelding was content to sit in sixth place as the field bunched approaching the final corner before finding a gap in the home straight.

The Lisa Whittle-trained Cyclonite (Casey Hunter), an exceptional performer over the years in the Red Centre, led from the outset after crossing from gate six and looked the winner with 100m to go.

Bench Press ($1.85 fav), who now boasts a fantastic record of 12: 6-5-0 in the Alice from 1000-1600m, nabbed the unlucky Cyclonite ($8.50) right on the line to win by a head with Whittle’s Mighty Murt (Paul Denton) in third.

Alice Springs R2 replay – Bench Press (1st)

Philpot undoubtedly pulled off the best riding performance of the day when the Ray Viney-trained Unpredicted ($5.50) sealed victory in stunning fashion over 1100m (BM54) after being allotted 61kg and drawing the outside gate (10).

After an exhilarating NT debut on January 21 when he zoomed home to finish second behind the in-form Esashi over 1000m (BM54), it was clear the former NSW galloper had talent and it was only the weight and gate that would have deterred punters.

Unpredicted, a six-year-old gelding, was among a host of horses vying for the early lead and burned plenty of petrol before settling in front at the 600m from Whittle’s Freedom Day (Lek Maloney) and Will Savage’s Speed Wheel (Phillip Crich).

The trio held a handy lead and once swinging for home at the 350m mark Freedom Day ($6.50), who had a 6.5kg advantage in the weights, was the only serious threat before Unpredicted held on to win by a length with Whittle’s $21 hope Ananagram (Denton) third.

The Viney camp purchased Unpredicted because of his speed and he certainly brought that to the table on Saturday by clocking 1.04.05 for the 1100m and no doubt the $100,000 Pioneer Sprint (1200m) on April 30 is now a consideration.

Alice Springs R3 replay – Unpredicted (1st)

Dick Leech’s Lethal Encounter could be a Pioneer Sprint candidate as well after the five-year-old gelding made it three straight wins in emphatic style over 1400m (0-64).

With Todd in the saddle, Lethal Encounter ($3.80) was happy to sit in fourth place in the five-horse field as Paul Gardner’s $1.80 favourite Fair Go (Wiseman) controlled proceedings out in front.

Leaving the back straight and with 600m to go, Leech’s Victorian acquisition made his move to sit outside Fair Go, who was hugging the rails, and Greg Connor’s Radio Room (Maloney), who took a sit at the front instead of settling further back.

Lethal Encounter kicked away in the home straight and left Fair Go, who was gone at the final bend, in his wake, while Radio Room ($5), with the benefit of a 4kg claim, recovered over the final 200m after showing signs of fatigue at the 400m to overtake Fair Go for second place.

After winning second-up in the Alice last July, Lethal Encounter failed to win in three starts at Kununurra (WA) and could only manage a third in two starts back at Pioneer Park before hitting form.

The son of Squamosa missed the start in his two previous wins, but that wasn’t the case on Saturday and that also played a key role in the victory.

Alice Springs R5 replay – Lethal Encounter (1st)

In the most exciting race of the day, Paul Gardner’s Nordic Lass (Dakota-Lee Gillett) was having her third start at the track and found something late to prevail over 1200m (0-58).

Savage’s The Last Charge (Ianish Luximon), Nordic Lass and Rene Taylor’s last-start winner Tycoons Dior (Hunter) took off and were eight lengths clear of Viney’s Debbonaire Boy (Philpot) and Leech’s Feed The Monster (Todd), who was further back, at the 800m.

Nearing the home turn and at the 400m, Nordic Lass ($4.60) continued to keep The Last Charge ($4.20) honest and Tycoons Dior ($7) wasn’t far away as Feed The Monster ($3.70 fav) started winding up.

At the 200m a big finish loomed with Nordic Lass (52kg), thanks to Gillett’s 3kg claim, getting the win from Tycoons Dior, The Last Charge and Feed The Monster, who paid the price for starting poorly, with three-quarters of a length separating the quartet.

Bear Forever, recently switched from the Tom Logan Darwin’s stable to Whittle’s, finally tasted success at the 10th attempt when Wiseman, Logan’s partner and stable rider, reacquainted herself with the four-year-old in a 1000m maiden.

The grey gelding was competitive in seven Fannie Bay starts, but a change of scenery is as good as a holiday and for Whittle, currently the champion trainer in Central Australia, it was her first win since December 4.

Bear Forever ($2.90 fav), a first-up fifth in the Red Centre, had stablemate Drawn To Win (Denton) on its girth in the early stages and they were five lengths clear – not surprising as they set a cracking pace.

Turning for home Bear Forever kicked away and was easing up on the line with Savage’s $6 fancy Paketta (Luximon) three lengths away in second place after passing the tiring Drawn To Win ($3.80).

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