BY DAVID WHITE
It’s arguably the biggest occasion on the Northern Territory sporting calendar.
And it ranks among the biggest racing festivals in Australia.
Yes, it’s the Carlton Mid Darwin Cup Carnival.
When Fannie Bay lights up for an eight-race meeting extravaganza that will feature some 300 horses.
That includes 125 horses visiting from within the Northern Territory and interstate.
There will be 22 visiting trainers from anywhere other than Darwin and 12 visiting trainers from outside the NT.
Eight visiting jockeys from anywhere other than Darwin will be in town, as well as up to half a dozen riders from interstate.
And the smorgasbord of equine entertainment gets underway on Saturday with Hot 100 Darwin Guineas Day – the first leg of the Ladbrokes Triple Crown for three-year-olds.
Festivities kick off with the official Darwin Cup Carnival launch at Fannie Bay on Thursday night.
The passing of jockey Roger Booth after he collapsed during last Saturday’s UBET ROANT Gold Cup meeting shocked the Darwin racing fraternity, as well as the horse racing family throughout Australia.
In honour of the veteran Victorian jockey, the Darwin Turf Club have named a race after him at the Hot 100 Guineas Race Day this Saturday.
The Roger Booth Memorial Open Handicap will be run over 1100m on Saturday.
For the next five weeks, 40,000 patrons are expected to pass through the gates at Fannie Bay – with an estimated crowd of 20,000 anticipated on Carlton Mid Cup Day.
“This great Carnival continues to enjoy enormous support from the Darwin community, the racing industry and all of its participants,” Brett Dixon, Darwin Turf Club Chairman, said.
“The Darwin Cup Carnival has played host to Australian dignitaries and racing royalty, the likes of Banjo Patterson, Prime Minister John Howard, Bart Cummings, Gai Waterhouse, Scobie Breasley, Michelle Payne, Darren Gauci, Peter Moody, Hugh Bowman and Tommy Berry just to name a few.
“A proud Northern Territory institution, the Darwin Turf Club is committed to the people of the Top End, the industry, our members and to the economic community that has supported us for so many years.
“Once again we welcome the thousand of visitors that come from interstate and the many locals that contribute in excess of $32 million into the Darwin economy.”
On July 15, it’s Asian United Food Service Chief Minister’s Cup Day.
The first of the midweek meetings takes place on Wednesday July 19 with Bridge Toyota Ladies Day.
The second leg of the Triple Crown takes place on Saturday July 22 with Ladbrokes NT Derby Day.
Horses battling to qualify for the Carlton Mid Darwin Cup will get their last opportunity on Sky Racing Metric Mile Race Day on Saturday July 29.
The biggest week in Top End racing starts with the Darwin Corporate Park Race Day on Wednesday August 2.
The first weekend of the 2017/18 season features the bet365 Palmerston Sprint Day on Saturday August 5.
And everything reaches a climax on Monday August 7 with Carlton Mid Darwin Cup Day.
All up, a total of $730,000 in prizemoney is up for grabs in the eight feature races.
With the Carlton Mid Darwin Cup (2000m) worth $200,000 – $132,000 to the winner plus $9,750 in trophies.
Prizemoney of $1.96 million will be handed out during the Carnival, including 73 trophies.
The biggest race in Darwin for the year is also the third leg of the Ladbrokes Triple Crown.
Should the winner of the $70,000 Hot 100 Darwin Guineas (1600m) this weekend then back up to win the $135,000 Ladbrokes NT Derby (2000m), then connections would be in line to win a substantial bonus.
Victory in the Carlton Mid Darwin Cup by their horse, who would have turned four years of age by August 7, would also see connections pick up an additional $100,000.
The feat has only been achieved twice in the past when Brinney triumphed in 1989 and Ventilago saluted in 1996.
The Ladbrokes Triple Crown bonus of $100,000 was first offered in 1995 and as fate would have it Ventilago won the Darwin Guineas, NT Derby and Darwin Cup the following year.
Dynamic Tycoon (1998), Brad Star (2007), Hawks Bay (2009), The Ruffian (2011), Host Of The Party (2013) and Finke (2016) won the first two legs before missing out in the Cup.
Last year, the Gary Clarke-trained Finke finished third in the Darwin Cup behind Canny Ballad and Whistle Stop.
Sadly, Finke, who was named Top End Racing’s Horse of the Year for the 2015/16 season, passed away in March after suffering a heart attack following a race at Morphettville in Adelaide.
Here is a list of how horses have performed in the past in their quest to win the Triple Crown since the introduction of the $100,000 bonus.
1995 – Jucent: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (8th), Darwin Cup (did not run)
1996 – Ventilago: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (1st), Darwin Cup (1st)
1997 – Sars: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (disqualified), Darwin Cup (did not run)
1998 – Dynamic Tycoon: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (1st), Darwin Cup (11th)
1999 – Nystrom: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (3rd), Darwin Cup (did not run)
2000 – Souch Street: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (8th), Darwin Cup (did not run)
2001 – Pass The Vas: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (5th), Darwin Cup (8th)
2002 – Grey Desert: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (2nd), Darwin Cup (11th)
2003 – Edge To Edge: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (3rd), Darwin Cup (did not run)
2004 – Delway: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (2nd), Darwin Cup (2nd)
2005 – Sandover: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (11th), Darwin Cup (did not run)
2006 – Carygranite: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (7th), Darwin Cup (did not run)
2007 – Brad Star: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (1st), Darwin Cup (3rd)
2008 – He’s Here: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (2nd), Darwin Cup (did not run)
2009 – Hawks Bay: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (1st), Darwin Cup (2nd)
2010 – Mahaffey Road: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (6th), Darwin Cup (did not run)
2011 – The Ruffian: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (1st), Darwin Cup (6th)
2012 – Snitzel’s Choice: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (4th), Darwin Cup (did not run)
2013 – Host Of The Party: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (1st), Darwin Cup (no race)
2014 – Gravitational: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (2nd), Darwin Cup (6th)
2015 – Mavericks: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (6th), Darwin Cup (did not run)
2016 – Finke: Darwin Guineas (1st), NT Derby (1st), Darwin Cup (3rd)
The three-year-olds who have assembled in the Top End in 2017 will be out to make an impression during the Darwin Cup Carnival as they strive to become only the third horse to win the Ladbrokes Triple Crown.
On June 24, it was the Sheila Arnold-trained Billet Doux and the Gary Clarke-trained Sky Muster who won the final three-year-old races leading up to the Darwin Guineas.
Billet Doux was highly impressive en route to victory from Cha Chang and Be Cool Yolander in the Heart Foundation Handicap (1600m).
Sky Muster also caught the eye after beating Inwood and Krusty across the line in the MGA Insurance Brokers Handicap (1300m).
A total of 18 horses have nominated for the Hot 100 Darwin Guineas (1600m)
0898-ARROW LANE 3g (Michael Hickmott) 58.0kg
2213-BE COOL YOLANDER 3f (Garry Lefoe) 56.0kg
7321-BILLET DOUX 3g (Sheila Arnold) 58.0kg
0440-BULLION WOLF 3g (Gary Kennewell) 58.0kg
1X42-CHA CHANG 3g (Gary Clarke) 58.0kg
11X9-DELTA D’OR 3g (Patrick Johnston) 58.0kg
1334-DU BOIS 3g (Garry Lefoe Snr) 58.0kg
1325-HALOGEM 3g (Mark Nyhan) 58.0kg
2217-HARLEQUIN BELLS 3g (Shane Clarke) 58.0kg
7051-HELSTAR 3g (Gary Clarke) 58.0kg
21X6-IDALIA’S DREAM 3g (Gary Clarke) 58.0kg
X272-INWOOD 3g (Kerry Petrick) 58.0kg
9X17-JACKANORY 3g (Dick Leech) 58.0kg
24X3-KRUSTY 3g (Stephen Brown) 58.0kg
46-LADY BARRON 3f (Nicole Bruggemann) 56.0kg
X724-RECONNECT 3g (David Bates) 58.0kg
2121-SKY MUSTER 3g (Gary Clarke) 58.0kg
3305-SO POYSED 3g (Richard Laming) 58.0kg