Andrew O’Toole

Courtesy of NT News

BEL’S Banner lived up to her very short price – $1.40 – with an all-the-way win in the Happy New Year Handicap, the feature event at Fannie Bay on Saturday.

Trained by Gary Clarke and with Jarrod Todd in the saddle, the six-year-old daughter of Starspangledbanner kept her unbeaten Darwin record intact with a dominate display.

She again showed impressive speed from the gate and Todd was able to have her across from the outside barrier and on the rail within the first 150m of the 1100m event.

From there she controlled the tempo, found a good kick in the home straight, and held out stablemate Mr Cashman by 2.5 lengths, with Trident, the NT Guineas winner from 2021, an eye-catching third.

Bel’s Banner had blitzed her rivals in her first two Darwin starts over 1000m on October 16 and December 4 and the extra trip on Saturday proved to be no impediment.

“She’s one of those horses who has come here and clicked on the surface,” Clarke said of the former Victorian.

“She hadn’t run further than 1000m when we got here, so who knows – she might get 1200m on the effort.”

Darwin racing’s ‘other Garry’ – trainer Garry Lefoe – made two early visits to the winner’s enclosure, with Don’ say It (Todd) scoring a tough win in the Silks 4.21 Happy Hour Handicap, and Expert Witness (Paul Shiers) holding on for the narrowest of victories in the Great Northern Maiden Plate. Don’t Say It was having her first start over 1300m but, aided by a well-judged ride, was able to hold off the fast-finishing Real reason, with Stroke of Magic in third. H

Expert Witness, a three-year-old by Star Witness, did a good job at his first Top End start, leading throughout and repelling the challenge of Kick It baby by a bare nose, with Cassett and Andaman close up in a sterling finish.

Hatton Man (Tayarn Halter/Stan Tsaikos) came from off the pace with a strong late run to win the Ladbrokes Summer Sprint Series Handicap by more than three lengths from New Roman, with topweight Overruled third.

Familja gave trainer Phil Cole and stable rider Wayne Davis a New Year’s Day win when leading throughout in the Sportsman’s Luncheon 18th February Handicap.

From the inside gate, Familja never gave his rivals a chance. The win took the nine-year-old’s earning to over the $100,000 mark.

Red’s Mate, trained by Chris Pollard and ridden by Sonja Wiseman, stormed home from back in the field to win the Hygain Handicap from a game pacemaker Against The Tide, with Grand Final fighting on for third.