By David White

It was around this time last year that the Chris Nash-trained Ideas Man was considered a strong chance in the $135,000 Palmerston Sprint (1200m) – Darwin’s feature race for the sprinters.

Arriving from the David Jolly stable in South Australia, he finished second on debut at Fannie Bay before stringing three straight wins together over the short course.

Ideas Man actually started the Palmerston Sprint as a $4.60 favourite on the last Saturday in July and despite carrying 54kg he was 8.5 lengths adrift of the winner Syncline in 10th place.

Backing up two days later in the Montgomerie Lightning (1000m) on Darwin Cup Day, the five-year-old gelding was fourth behind Glock and although finishing second in his next three starts he ended 2022 poorly.

Returning for the Alice Springs Cup Carnival in April, Ideas Man was a first up third before coming 10th in the $100,000 Pioneer Sprint (1200m) behind Supreme Attraction.

The son of Brazen Beau, victorious in a $500,000 two-year-old race at Moonee Valley in his first career start for Ciaron Maher and Davis Eustace in October 2019, returned to the Top End for a third over 1100m (BM76) on May 27.

There are signs that Ideas Man might well be back to his best because after rolling Syncline by 3.3 lengths over 1100m (BM76) three weeks ago he backed that up with an impressive win over 1000m (0-76) at Fannie Bay on Saturday.

With Gary Clarke’s Rising Sphere ($2.40 fav) and Jason Manning’s Niewand on its outside, Ideas Man (Mark Pegus) was camped on the rails and the trio were well clear of the field as they battled for supremacy.

Turning for home and with 300m to go, Ideas Man ($2.70) edged clear of Rising Sphere (fourth) and Niewand (sixth) before securing victory from fast-finishing pair I’m A Legend (Ianish Luximon), a $12 hope from Kym Healy’s stable, and Munster (Aaron Sweeney), a $16 chance from Neil Dyer’s yard.

South Australian pair I’m A Legend, who impressed during the Alice Springs Cup Carnival, and Munster were making their Fannie Bay debuts with both producing excellent Palmerston Sprint trials.

Kent Street, who kicked off its career in Tasmania and Victoria before arriving in the NT in late 2021, recorded just its second win from 11 Darwin starts for trainer Peter Stennett after sneaking home over 1100m (0-62).

The eight-year-old gelding, a minor placegetter on four occasions at Fannie Bay, was happy to trail Tayarn Halter’s Don’t Wait (Emma Lines) when they jumped and the pair dominated the three other runners from start to finish.

Don’t Wait ($4.40), a model of consistency for Halter over the years, refused to give up the lead and it was only after a titanic battle down the home straight that Kent Street (Sonja Wiseman), the son of Swinging Bachelor, left it late to win by 0.1 lengths.

Russell Bell’s $3.60 contender Delago Lad (Casey Hunter) from Alice Springs was having its first start in the tropics and rallied over the concluding 600m from the rear to pip Halter’s Zou Zou Kacanarkis and Manning’s Kirakat for third.

Wiseman partnered Kent Street, who had four starts in Victoria and SA last spring, in his only other Darwin victory last July over 1000m (0-66).

Former NSW galloper Hard To Excel (Jarrod Todd) has finally found his feet in the Top End for the Clarke stable and after getting to an early lead on Saturday made it back to back wins over 1200m (0-58).

The four-year-old gelding, who managed a second and a third in his first six Fannie Bay starts, jumped well from barrier 10 in the 12-horse field and had settled in front on the fence passing the 1000m.

Hard To Excel ($8) was three lengths clear at the 500m and was in great shape turning for home after extending its lead, but after leading his rivals a merry dance the son of All Too Hard tired over the final 200m.

In the end, he was in no danger of defeat despite the fact that Healy’s $5.50 prospect Equal Balance (Pegus), who blew the start on its Darwin debut before winding up over the remaining 900m, cut the deficit to half a length with an exhilarating burst over the final 300m.

Tom Logan’s Blueant (Wiseman), starting at $17, trailed second-placed Laylah’s Wish for a majority of the trip and finished two lengths adrift in third place following a first up seventh three weeks ago after returning from a spell.

They didn’t feature in the finish, but looking ahead to the Darwin Cup Carnival the likes of Gotta Beat, Miracoli and Teng Hui Feng Li made a serious impression.