HE was basically on holidays.
Now Krusty is in line to become just the third horse to the win the Darwin Turf Club’s famed Ladbrokes Triple Crown.
Introduced in 1995, the horse who can win the $70,000 Hot 100 Darwin Guineas (1600m), $135,000 Ladbrokes NT Derby (2000m) and $200,000 Carlton Mid Darwin Cup (2000m) during the Darwin Cup Carnival will see connections pick up a $100,000 bonus.
The spotlight will now focus on Krusty after the Stephen Brown-trained three-year-old gelding recorded a dramatic victory on Saturday in the Hot 100 Guineas – the feature race on Day 1 of the Cup Carnival.
In front of a healthy crowd on a nine-race program at Fannie Bay, Krusty (Paul Denton) came from the clouds with a withering burst outwide to grab the gallant So Poysed right on the post to win by a head.
So Poysed, a three-year-old gelding from the Richard Laming stable, went for glory after hitting the front with 600m to go and it looked like the Cranbourne galloper would get the cash.
Krusty, who was well back in the field at the half way mark, found daylight after working his way through the field and with a scintillating burst of speed managed to pip So Poysed in the shadows of the winning post.
Brown is now based at Flemington after dominating the Darwin racing scene as a jockey and trainer, so it was in effect a Victorian quinella in the Guineas.
The only concern for So Poysed (Jason Lyon) when the pressure mounted in the home straight was his inability to shake Darwin trainer Kerry Petrick’s three-year-gelding Inwood (Felicia Bergstrand).
Inwood had been among the leaders for most of the race and refused to yield when So Poysed made his move.
Everyone had their eyes on So Poysed and Inwood half way down the straight, but then Krusty and the Sheila Arnold-trained three-year-old gelding and Guineas favourite Billet Doux (Paul Shiers) entered the fray.
It was always going to be an epic finish.
There wasn’t much between Krusty and So Poysed, but Inwood was just a half neck adrfit in third place with Billet Doux a short half head away in fourth place.
It would have made for a great photo for any snapper who was trackside.
Stephen Brown watched the race from his Melbourne home, with wife Elisha and daughter Alana, a former Top End jockey, running the show in Darwin.
Elisha has been taking care of the training responsibilities in the absence of her husband.
Alana, an insurance broker these days, hasn’t given up the racing game for good just yet and normally rides Krusty during track work.
Now back to that holiday Krusty was supposedly having in Darwin.
“We brought him to Darwin to have the occasional race, but we didn’t really have the Guineas or Derby in mind,” Elisha Brown said.
“He is an old style thoroughbred, but he is just lovely and pulled up well after the Guineas.
“Stephen was happy when I called him after the race.
“He is normally subdued, but he said to me ‘That was good, wasn’t it?’
“We thought Krusty was immature and that we would get the best out of him as a four-year-old, but the fact he is now a chance of winning the Triple Crown is exciting.
“On today’s effort, it shouldn’t be a problem when he steps up to 2000m.”
Krusty, a solid performer in Sydney and on NSW provincial tracks during his short career, was always heading to Darwin according to Stephen Brown.
“Krusty was recommended to me and horses I have sent to Darwin in the past have had success,” he said.
Elisha Brown was full of praise for the desperately unlucky So Poysed, who brought decent Victorian form to the Top End.
So Poysed was fifth on debut at Fannie Bay behind the Gary Clarke-trained Sky Muster – who was ninth in the Hot 100 Guineas – in the MGA Insurance Brokers Handicap (1300m) on June 24.
“I thought Krusty was too far behind when So Poysed took off after drawing level with Inwood at around the 600m,” Ms Brown said.
“So Poysed was going OK and looked home at the 100m, but then Krusty and Billet Doux made their moves.
“It was hard to watch – we all had our hearts in our mouths – and I honestly thought So Poysed had won before I saw the replay.
“Full credit to Dasher (Paul Denton) – I left it up to him and in the end he produced the perfect ride.
“He did tell me that he had a plan after watching an earlier race on the program, but at one stage Krusty was a long way back and I didn’t think he could win.”
Denton, the former Darwin premiership jockey who now resides in Adelaide, last won the Guineas in 2003 on Edge To Edge.
And he was keen to get the ride on Krusty.
“I got back further than I would have liked, but I wasn’t all that keen to go wide, so I waited for the chance to go inside before getting clear,” he said.
“Elisha and Alana have done a wonderful job and he shouldn’t have any problems in the Derby.
“It’s a 2000m race, but he’ll just sit back and fall asleep.
“I’ve known Stephen for about 30-40 years and it’s great to ride another winner for him.”
Denton’s exceptional ride on Krusty took its toll as he had to recover in the jockeys room and missed the presentation.
Laming would have been disappointed after So Poysed’s narrow loss, but he was philosophical after the race.
“It was a great run and he looked the winner with 100m to go,” he said.
“There’s always tomorrow and we’ll just see how things go, but if he pulls up well he’ll run in the Derby.”
“I can’t be critical of Jason at all and it’s hard to fault his ride, especially when So Poysed came so close to winning,” Laming said.
Former Victorian galloper Inwood, who finished second on debut at Fannie Bay behind Sky Muster on June 24, stuck it right up So Poysed before Krusty arrived on the scene.
After an imposing victory in the Heart Foundation Handicap (1600m) when he debuted in Darwin on June 24, Billet Doux was racing midfield at the 800m before striking trouble.
He suddenly went backwards before regaining his balance and composure, but that moment proved crucial as it may have cost him the race.
Billet Doux, who was placed at Caulfield and Morphettville before getting a taste of the Northern Territory, still showed signs that he could be a major player in the Derby.
PAST THE POST
$70,000 Hot 100 Darwin Guineas (1600m) at Fannie Bay
9 KRUSTY 3g (Stephen Brown – Flemington) Paul Denton 58.0kg $3.70
11 So Poysed 3g (Richard Laming – Cranbourne) Jason Lyon 58.0kg $8.50
8 Inwood 3g (Kerry Petrick – Darwin) Felicia Bergstrand 58.0kg $14.00
2 Billet Doux 3g (Sheila Arnold – Kyneton) Paul Shiers 58.0kg $3.10fav
Margins: Head x 1/2 Neck
Last 600m: 37.51