TRAINERS Merv Rumble and Harold Hayes epitomise the appeal of the Darwin Cup Carnival.
The fact that horse lovers will travel at great lengths to participate in one of the more unique racing spectacles, if not sporting events, on the Australian calendar.
Rumble made the 3495km trek from Warren, which is just up the road from Dubbo, in country NSW.
Hayes hails from Brisbane and his trip north was a lazy 3425km..
Long way to come to race their horses, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Like fellow interstate trainers from Victoria and South Australia, it’s an opportunity to experience the Top End lifestyle.
Additionally, it’s not every day that you get to race a horse at the famous Fannie Bay racecourse.
The magnificent weather at the height of the dry season also gives southerners the chance to escape the cold conditions that prevail in their neck of the woods.
It may not be on every trainer’s bucket list to have a horse from their stable compete in Darwin as there is no question it’s an expensive exercise.
However, the memories of tasting success in the Top End – let alone during the Darwin Cup Carnival – will last forever.
And over the years, interstate trainers become hooked and return to the Northern Territory to once again take on their colleagues from Darwin and Alice Springs.
Today marks Day 3 of the 2017 Darwin Cup Carnival – the first of two meetings scheduled on a Wednesday.
The feature race if the $50,000 Bridge Toyota Cup (1600m) for 0-76 raters who have visions of contesting the $50,000 Sky Racing Metric Mile (1600m) on July 29 and the $200,000 Carlton Mid Darwin Cup (2000m) on August 7.
One other race on the program that is certain to attract plenty of attention is the $30,000 Nautilus Aviation Rose Bowl (1300m) for the fillies and mares.
Rumble will start four-year-old grey gelding Cadman in the Bridge Toyota Cup, while Hayes has entered five-year-old bay mare Lead Husson in the Nautilus Aviation Rose Bowl.
Cadman, who won on Darwin Cup Day last year, is back in the Top End following his debut appearance in 2016.
He may have featured in a trial in Gilgandra on New Year’s Eve, but following his success at Fannie Bay on August 1 last year his next start was in Alice Springs.
That was on Alice Springs Cup Day at Pioneer Park on May 1 when he finished fifth behind smart Red Centre sprinter Short Shift over 1000m.
Next stop was Darwin where he finished second in the QBE Cup (1200m) behind Harrebs Time on June 17 before a disappointing 10th in the UBET ROANT Gold Cup (1300m) behind Unbreakable on July 1.
Cadman was phenomenal in Darwin last year winning five races from six starts – he finished fourth in his other apearance.
However, today he will be negotiating 1600m for the first time and in his 14 previous career starts the furthest he has travelled is over 1375m at Cowra where he came second.
“The Bridge Toyota Cup is a strong field and I’m optimistic, I believe he is a chance,” Rumble, who once resided in Alice Springs, said yesterday.
“Tomorrow night we’ll know if it was wise to start him in the race, but he has pace and he should prove competitive.
“I’ll leave it up to (jockey) Stephen Ridler to determine whether he goes forward early or settles at the rear of the field as he has drawn gate 11.”
Rumble, who won the Bridge Toyota Cup in 2005 with Swepscay, brought three other horses with him to Darwin this year – Que Pasa, McManus and Olivares.
“There’s every chance I will stick around after the Cup Carnival, I’ll just see how things go,” Rumble said.
“I love it here – the weather is great, it’s a nice place, there’s plenty of good people and I’m a big fan of the Cup Carnival.”
Meanwhile, Lead Husson, who has had 39 career starts, had an arduous campaign when she debuted at Fannie Bay last year when she lined up on six occasions.
In races that ranged from 1000m-1300m, Hayes’ galloper had a win, a second, two thirds, and a sixth before finishing fourth in a race on Darwin Cup Day.
Lead Husson’s next start was 10 months later back in the Top End where she ran fourth over 1100m on June 17 before once again finishing fourth over 1100m on July 1.
Hayes explains the reason why the mare, who raced in Brisbane, south-east Queensland, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and far northern NSW before she embarked on her Northern Territory adventure, spent so much time away from the racetrack.
“The poor bugger never really had much of a break, so we sent her to the paddock for nine months after last year’s Darwin Cup Carnival,” Hayes said.
“We had to scratch Lead Husson from the Rose Bowl on the morning of the race last year, but we’re looking forward to the race this year because we feel she is a better horse compared to 12 months ago.
“She has already won over $80,000 in prizemoney and it would be good if she could crack the $100,000 mark during the Cup Carnival.”
Hayes, who is based at the Deagon complex in Brisbane’s northern suburbs, brought three-year-old filly Pincentia to Darwin as well to basically keep Lead Husson company.
Pincentia, a maiden, has had four starts in Darwin without firing a shot, but is currently nursing a foot injury.
“Pincentia will hopefully get another run before the end of the Cup Carnival, but we’re very hopeful Lead Husson will shine in the Rose Bowl,” Hayes said.
“Some horses can’t handle the dirt here in Darwin where as other horses thrive, and thankfully for us Lead Husson has adapted to Fannie Bay.”
Like Rumble, Hayes could not speak more highly of the Darwin Cup Carnival and the Top End.
“It’s a magnificent Carnival and the hospitality we receive is wonderful – we’re looked after really well here in Darwin,” he said.
“I just love the racing and there’s every chance I’ll stay here a little longer after the Cup Carnival.”
In-form Victorian jockey Jarrod Todd, who has already ridden three winners during the Cup Carnival, has been booked to partner Lead Husson in the Nautilus Aviation Rose Bowl.
BRIDGE TOYOTA CUP (1600m)
Year Horse Age Trainer Jockey Time
2000 Nystrom 4 G Wenman D Bates 1:38.16
2001 Gira 4 S Brown P Denton 1:37.19
2002 Going Napar 6 U Dobbe T Norton 1:36.28
2003 Irish Intrigue 5 K Sweeney K Dodge 1:36.70
2004 Mediterranean 5 S Brown J Hallam 1:35.45
2005 Swepscay 4 M Rumble P Denton 1:35.89
2006 Nozi 4 P Trenwith S Cahill 1:35.22
2007 Metro Gold 6 K Petrick P Denton 1:36.48
2008 Off The Richter 4 S Clarke N Stanley 1:37.58
2009 Marco Lago 5 D Leech D Robinson 1:37.88
2010 Last Frontier 8 L Williams P Denton 1:37.14
2011 General Mazeratti 6 J Manning V Arnott 1:36.27
2012 Sheahan 4 S Brown S Hillebrand 1:36.42
2013 Spartan Eagle 5 R Richard S Hillebrand 1:37.70
2014 Bel Sir 6 N Dyer J Todd 1:37.36
2015 Saturday Sorcerer 5 M Webb P Denton 1:35.66
2016 Our Valdivia 5 L Whittle P Denton 1:35.64
NAUTILUS AVIATION ROSE BOWL (1300m)
Year Horse Age Trainer Jockey Time
2005 Sequalo Fair 3 S Clarke W Davis 1:15.66
2006 Catwalk Minnie 3 B Merrall N Stanley 1:15.67
2007 Gentle Zephyr 5 K Hughes D Bates 1:15.71
2008 Champion Spirit 4 D Bates D Bates 1:17.84
2009 Access Denied 5 L Williams J Cameron 1:17.12
2010 Piclesia 4 S Arnold K Gladwin 1:16.29
2011 Piclesia 5 S Arnold L Hopwood 1:16.01
2012 Cyclone Sarah 5 K Petrick P Crich 1:16.70
2013 Mango Mojito 4 J McLean J Maskiell 1:17.31
2014 Belle Ez 5 N Dyer J Todd 1:17.62
2015 Ambrosia 6 S Clarke M Tyndall 1:15.97
2016 Alphabetic 5 H Lehmann A Mallyon 1:15.79
Note: 2005 – first year it was a fillies and mares race. Prior to 2005 it was a race for three-year-old fillies only