BY DAVID WHITE
Yes, Royal Request ended up winning the feature race on Day 5 of the Darwin Cup Carnival at Fannie Bay on Saturday.
The Neil Dyer-trained six-year-old gelding was a brilliant winner of the $50,000 Sky Racing Metric Mile (1600m).
So impressive was the Victorian galloper from Dyer’s Kyneton stable that the 2014 NT Derby winner is expected to assume outright favouritism for the $200,000 Carlton Mid Darwin Cup (2000m) on August 7.
We’ll get back to Royal Request a little later.
It was Victorian jockey Jarrod Todd who grabbed all the headlines on the eight-event program after booting home four winners.
Talk about an occasion that the 29-year-old won’t forget in a hurry, and amazingly it could have been even more spectacular.
Todd was the runner up in the opening three races on the program when he partnered Perpetual Bliss (Philip Cole), Senor Juez (Neil Dyer) and Delta D’Or (Patrick Johnston).
For the record, Niccoco (Garry Lefoe Jnr), Viotti (Philip Cole) and Jackanory (Dick Leech) won the opening three races.
Todd didn’t have a ride in the sixth race when Richie Oakford produced a gem of a ride to guide the Gary Clarke-trained Rex Celeritate to victory.
And it must be said that Paul Shiers won the opening two races aboard Niccoco and Viotti.
However, Todd was literally on fire on Saturday – he couldn’t do thing wrong and he was nothing short of sensational in the saddle.
Before Saturday, he had ridden three winners during the Cup Carnival.
Todd has now joined Brendon Davis (7) as the leading jockey for the 2017 Darwin Cup Carnival.
The leading jockey at the end of the racing extravaganza in the Top End will pocket $3,000 – there’s three meetings to go.
To ride four winners with wife Andrea, as well as five-year-old son Jacob and one-year-old daughter Madeline, at Fannie Bay was also a special moment.
No wonder he punched the air in celebration when he returned to the mounting yard after guiding Dyer’s Bel Sir to victory in the last race.
And he was also spotted holding up the four fingers for photographers.
Todd’s dream run started in race four when he booted home the Michael Hickmott-trained Going Gaga to its first ever win.
Going Gaga was at one stage five wide leaving the back straight, but had enough in reserve to kick clear in the home straight to post a superb victory.
With Todd looking over his shoulder a number of times to see if there was any danger in the home straight, Going Gaga eased up at the line to win by one and a half lengths.
Todd said: “The horse has a lot of ability and performed today like a 70 rater. It was a good win and he has certainly come on following his first start. He has untapped talent and is set for a promising future as he’s a nice horse. It was a great win considering how much ground he had to cover from the 700m.”
Next up, Todd piloted the Lisa Whittle-trained Moot from Alice Springs to success.
Moot made it four wins from six starts at Fannie Bay – he was second on each other occasion.
Settling behind the leaders in the five-horse race, Moot sprinted away once turning for home to win by a tick over five lengths.
Todd said: “He’s a big horse and he seemed to want to go a lot earlier today. I did have to hold him back approaching the home turn, but once I let him go he certainly hit top gear. He was most impressive and I must thank Lisa for the ride as she has always supported me. It was great to get the rewards today and it’s not hard to see why Lisa keeps sending him to Darwin.”
It was then victory in the Metric Mile where Royal Request truly made his rivals look second rate.
Settling at the rear of the field, Royal Request continued to sit on the rails turning for home.
Royal Request then entered the equation and the ease in which he took full control of the race was extraordinary.
After hitting the front with 200m to go, Royal Request cruised home and was never going to lose despite prevailing by three quarters of a length.
Todd said: “It was like a trackwork. I don’t mean to boast or sound arrogant, but that was an easy, if not a soft win. I gave him a bit of a niggle in the home straight when it mattered, but he was travelling beautifully. In a way, I had to do a bit of work to prove that I was having a go.”
To put the icing on the cake, Todd was victorious in the final race when he linked up with Dyer’s Bel Sir for the first time in two years.
Bel Sir was among the leaders for the duration of the race before winding up turning for home.
He was pushed to the limit by Gary Clarke’s courageous Kifaah (Jason Lyon) all the way down the home straight before sneaking home.
Todd also won the Bridge Toyota Cup (1600m) on Bel Sir during the 2014 Darwin Cup Carnival.
Todd said: “It’s been a massive day and it’s the first time I have ever ridden four winners at a race meeting. Bel Sir settled well among the leaders and he did a great job to catch Kifaah in the home straight. The last time I rode Bel Sir at Fannie Bay back in June 2015 he won, so it was a great re-union.”
Royal Request, who has contested the past three Darwin Cups, is certainly the one to beat in the Northern Territory’s biggest race on the first Monday in August if Saturday is any guide.
He finished 10th in the 2014 Cup as a three-year-old before running second behind Lightinthenite in 2015 and fourth behind Canny Ballad in 2016.
A fourth Top End campaign began on a modest note when Royal Request finished sixth behind Harrebs Time, Cadman and Statue Of Warriors in the QBE Cup (1200m) on June 17.
After running third behind Unbreakable and Abu Dhabi in the UBET ROANT Gold Cup (1300m) on July 1, Royal Request proved he was back in town in the Asian United Food Service Chief Minister’s Cup (1600m) on July 15 when he beat Whistle Stop and Pretty Blonde home.
Royal Request, who will be top weight in the 2017 Darwin Cup, settled at the rear with the Kym Healy-trained Pretty Blonde (Jason Lyon) once the Metric Mile field entered the back straight.
The Bob Richard-trained Spartan Eagle (Kayla Cross) set the early pace where most of the runners in the race would have qualified for the Darwin Cup with victory.
Tayarn Halter’s Harrebs Time (Raymond Vigar), Dick Leech’s Whistle Stop (Paul Shiers) and Dyer’s Arctic Song (Wayne Davis) were sitting three-lengths adrift of Spartan Eagle.
Carly Cook’s War Story (Declan Bates) then made a move just as Pretty Blonde asserted her authority by rounding the field.
Spartan Eagle, a former Alice Springs Cup winner, wouldn’t go away and led turning for home.
The opposition was powerless when Royal Request went in search of the winning post.
Royal Request pipped Spartan Eagle, with Harrebs Time holding on to grab third place.
You wouldn’t see a better Cup trial by Royal Request, but the question has to be asked.
Has he peaked too early?
After Saturday, the answer would be no.
Dyer has won the Darwin Cup on two previous occasions with Hawks Bay (2011 and 2012), and he also won the Metric Mile with Palmyra Boy (2009 and 2010) and Hawks Bay (2011).
According to Dyer, Royal Request reminded him of Hawks Bay, who put the Kyneton trainer on the map here in the Northern Territory, en route to victory in the Metric Mile on Saturday.
PAST THE POST
Day 5 – Darwin Cup Carnival at Fannie Bay
$50,000 Sky Racing Metric Mile (1600m)
1 ROYAL REQUEST 6g (Neil Dyer) Jarrod Todd 59kg $7.50
10 Spartan Eagle 9g (Bob Richard) Kayla Cross 54kg $14.00
6 Harrebs Time 5g (Tayarn Halter) Raymond Vigar 56kg $4.80
4 Pretty Blonde 8m (Kym Healy) Jason Lyon 57kg $18.00
Margins: 3/4 Len x Long Head
Last 600m: 35.15
2016/17 Top End Premierships (final)
32 Brendon Davis
29 Felicia Bergstrand
23 Raymond Vigar
17 Vanessa Arnott
17 Richie Oakford
50 Gary Clarke
26 Kerry Petrick
17 Chris Pollard
13 Tayarn Halter
12 Jason Manning
2017 Asian United Food Service Jockeys and Trainer Bonus (Day 5)
7 Brendon Davis, Jarrod Todd
6 Jason Lyon
5 Paul Shiers
3 Stephen Ridler
2 Kayla Cross, Paul Denton
7 Gary Clarke
6 Neil Dyer
3 Sheila Arnold, Philip Cole, Dick Leech
2 Garry Lefoe Jnr, Danny Penna, David Bates, Greg Connor, Michael Hickmott