Zoumist didn’t qualify automatically for the $40,000 Lightning Wet Season Series Final (1200m), but the mare proved far too good for her rivals at Fannie Bay on Australia Day.
The five-year-old from the Angela Forster stable finished sixth in her heat behind Noble War over 1100m (0-64) on New Year’s Eve – her last start – before storming home on Thursday to take out the feature race on the Darwin program.
The Wet Season Series comprised seven heats for the mid-range sprinters from November-January and following its inception last year it now rivals the $40,000 St Patrick’s Day Cup (1600m) in March as one of the big races in the Top End outside the Darwin Cup Carnival.
The concept adds a bit more interest and intrigue to the racing program in Darwin at this time of year.
It also gives owners and trainers the opportunity to vye for decent prizemoney, which may not be the case when their horse competes against stronger opposition during the Cup Carnival from July-August.
The Final on Thursday attracted a strong field despite the fact that three of the other heat winners Kirakat (Jason Manning), War Games (Dick Leech) and Brazenpine (Phil Cole), who qualified for the Final, did not accept.
Horses accumulated points during the heats to enhance their hopes of making the Final, but in the end it was left up to connections as to whether or not they entered the $40,000 race at 0-70 level.
Only those that competed in the heats could contest the Final if others based on order of merit skipped the race and that’s where fortune certainly smiled on Zoumist.
When automatic qualifiers fell by the wayside, the daughter of Zoustar lined up in the 10-horse field and was surprisingly well supported starting as the $6 second favourite.
Jarrod Todd, who finished second in the inaugural Final last year on Gary Clarke’s Mr Cashman behind stablemate Blue Odyssey (Barry Huppatz), said before the race that he was impressed with Zoumist’s second last start over 1300m (0-64) on November 12 when she finished third.
The former NSW galloper was having just her fourth start in the Top End after finishing fifth on debut over 1300m in open company on Melbourne Cup Day before her last start on December 31.
“Her run two starts back was pretty good when she came third,” he said.
“She’s probably meets a field that’s really going to test her and she’s going to have to be at her best.
“Based on the weights, I give her a rough chance – she’s not the worst.
“If things go her way she can definitely sort of hopefully figure in the finish somewhere.”
How prophetic as Zoumist (56.5kg) was emphatic when she wound up with 500m to go approaching the final bend after nestling in sixth place behind the leading bunch.
Circling the leaders once turning for home, the mare made it four wins from 22 starts with a powerful winning burst after Tayarn Halter’s $8.50 hope Noble War ($8.50) had pinched a break with 200m left to go.
Zoumist was in full flight at the 100m and was never in danger of defeat, although Chris Pollard’s $14 hope Lucky Dog (Stan Tsaikos) was motoring home after sitting in second last place at the 800m exiting the back straight.
Phil Cole’s $11 fancy Colhoun (Wayne Davis), who was travelling beautifully in fifth place for a major portion of the race, looked the biggest threat to Noble War turning for home before Zoumist and Lucky Dog swooped and ended up coming third ahead of stablemate Looking For You (Emma Lines), a $15 chance.
Lucky Dog followed a similar path to that of Zoumist as far as sealing a spot in the Final after finishing fourth in Heat 1 behind Crazy Lad over 1200m (BM54), but in his next two starts he finished second over 1000m (0-58) and 1200m (0-58) and with 54kg on Thursday he was by no means out if it.
For Forster, who relocated to Darwin a few years ago from Port Lincoln, it was another big win in the NT after Montalto and Lotion took out the Alice Springs Cup (2000m) in 2016 and 2020, respectively.
Lotion also won the Tennant Creek Cup (1600m) in 2018 and 2019.
There was a mad dash at the start of Wet Season Final with Noble War camping itself on the rails with Looking For You on its outside, Tom Logan’s $8.50 runner Virtuous Miss (Sonja Wiseman) sitting three wide and Kerry Petrick’s $6.50 starter New Roman (Phillip Crich) four wide.
As mentioned, Colhoun was fifth and Zoumist was sixth, while Halter’s $3 favourite Beachhaven (Paul Shiers), aiming to make it three wins from as many starts at Fannie Bay, was seventh.
Shiers was returning from injury and secured the ride on Beachhaven, who won Heat 4 over 1200m (Class 2) on December 9.
Apart from the Cole pairing of Brother Bassy (Paul Denton) and Crazy Lad (Vanessa Arnott), who started at $26 and $18, there were plenty of chances at the top of the home straight as Beachhaven looked for a winning passage along the rails – he would end up finishing seventh.
Other heat winners in the Final were Noble War (5th), who saluted over 1100m (0-64) on December 31, Crazy Lad (8th), who prevailed over 1200m (0-54) on November 12, and New Roman (10th), who succeeded over 1300m (0-64) on January 14.
Sitting four wide for the first 800m proved too much for New Roman in the end, while Virtuous Miss also felt the pinch in the closing stages before crossing the line in ninth place.
Brother Bassy never gave much of a yelp before rallying in the final 300m to produce an eye-catching sixth.
To cap off a big day for Todd, he would go on to make it a winning double when saluting aboard Mr Cashman in Heat 3 of the Summer Sprint Series (1300m) with the five-year-old gelding making amends after finishing second in the Wet Season Final a year ago.