Write Your Name headlines Chief Minister’s Cup field

Jade Hampson
Darwin apprentice Jade Hampson celebrates victory in the 2023 Alice Springs Cup (2000m) aboard Write Your Name. The eight-year-old gelding, the reigning Horse of the Year in Alice Springs and Darwin, starts in the $40,000 Chief Minister’s Cup (1600m) at Pioneer Park on Saturday. Picture: Nikki Westover Photography

There are early signs that this year’s Alice Springs Cup could attract one of the best fields in many years.

Several Cup hopefuls will feature in an outstanding $40,000 Chief Minister’s Cup (1600m) at weight-for-age level at Pioneer Park on Saturday.

It’s the feature race on Day 3 of the Alice Springs Turf Club’s Cup Carnival and the winner will no doubt assume favouritism for the $110,000 Alice Springs Cup (2000m) on April 7.

Neil Dyer’s Hettinger could not have been more impressive when he debuted in the NT last year, with the five-year-old gelding saluting in Alice Springs, Darwin and Katherine.

The son of I Am Invincible was always returning after winning the Katherine Cup (1700m) by 7.5 lengths, and he was a first-up winner back in the Red Centre on March 17 in the St Patrick’s Day Cup (1600m).

Write Your Name, the reigning Horse of the Year in Alice Springs and Darwin, won the 2023 Alice Springs and Darwin Cups, but with trainer Dick Leech now serving a 12-month suspension, the eight-year-old gelding has been switched to the Gary Clarke stable.

The son of Written Tycoon, who won four straight during the ASTC Carnival last year, failed to impress in SA during the spring, but was a first-up winner over 1200m in open class back at Pioneer Park on March 2.

Kerry Petrick’s Venting, the 2022 NT Derby (2050m) winner, has been in splendid form since returning from a spell in November with three wins and three minor placings from six starts.

Star Witness’ five-year-old gelding was third in the St Patrick’s Day Cup (BM76).

Kym Healy’s Taipan Tommy, an eight-year-old gelding, starred during last year’s Alice Springs Cup Carnival with three wins and a second from four starts before claiming the Tennant Creek Cup (1600m).

The son of Dark Valley won first up in Alice on March 17 over 1400m (0-70), and come Saturday, his shares will soar should he prevail, as he is backing up after winning over 1400m (BM76) on Wednesday (March 27).

Ray Viney’s Quizzle, a five-year-old gelding by Sizzling, is stepping up in grade, but it’s hard to fault his consistency in the Alice with five wins and nine minor placings from 17 starts.

Terry Gillett’s That’s Justified, the nine-year-old gelding by Reward For Effort, debuted seven years ago, and in 62 Alice Springs starts, his record stands at 20 wins and 24 minor placings.

Quizzle was a last-start winner over 1600m (0-64) three weeks ago, while it was on 2023 Alice Springs Cup Day (April 30) when last That’s Justified saluted over 1600m (BM76).

“It’s a high-quality six-horse Chief Minister’s Cup field and I couldn’t settle on a winner with confidence, perhaps Hettinger or Write Your Name if forced to make a choice,” said a fellow NT trainer.

“With Century Fox, Boom Boom Sweet, Desert Lass, Chris Nash’s Son Of Bielski, Garret Lynch’s Shiny Rock, and Michael Hickmott’s Oath Of Omerta, Exalted Fire and Lake’s Folly missing on Saturday, it should be a tremendous Alice Springs Cup field.”

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