IT has been four years since a Victorian trained horse has won the $135,000 Ladbrokes NT Derby (2000m) at Fannie Bay.
That’s when Neil Dyer’s Royal Request (Jarrod Todd), who won last year’s Darwin Cup, sealed the deal.
Richard Laming’s Stratum On Fire (Jason Lyon) and the Paul and Tracey Templeton-trained Mulligan Falls (Wayne Davis) are among the chances in the blue-ribbon event for three-year-olds.
It’s the feature race on Day 4 of the Darwin Cup Carnival.
Additionally, the Derby is also the second leg of the Ladbrokes Triple Crown.
The Garry Lefoe Jnr-trained Brunswick Street (Paul Shiers) is aiming to become just the third horse to achieve the feat – which will also secure connections an extra $100,000 in prizemoney.
Brunswick Street was an impressive winner of the $75,000 Hot 100 Darwin Guineas (1600m) on July 7 – Day 1 of the 2018 Cup Carnival.
Should Brunswick Street win the NT Derby, the three-year-old gelding would then have to win the $200,000 Carlton Mid Darwin Cup (2000m) on August 6 to win the Triple Crown.
Brinney (1989) and Ventilago (1996) are the only members of the exclusive club.
Brunswick Street was most impressive in the Guineas, but like a majority of the runners he will be negotiating the 2000m trip for the first time.
Others have attempted the 2000m journey in the past without success.
That only adds to the intrigue of the NT Derby.
The fact that Hawks Bay, The Ruffian, Host Of The Party, Royal Request, Finke and Billet Doux have won the NT Derby in recent times proves that the cream does rise to the top come race day.
John Hickmott’s Turf Man (Jason Maskiell), Gary Clarke’s Patria (Brendon Davis), Stephen Brown’s Big Blows (Paul Denton) and Dick Leech’s Hildisvini (Justin Potter) have their supporters, but Stratum On Fire and Mulligan Falls must be respected.
Stratum On Fire, who jumps from the inside gate in the NT Derby, caught the eye after running home strongly to finish fourth in the Darwin Guineas.
“The Guineas and Derby was always the plan for Stratum On Fire and he has been working well,” Laming said from Melbourne on Friday.
“I was happy with his effort in the Guineas, which I believe has set him up for the Derby.
“The 2000m will suit him and more importantly he is well.
“It’s very hard to assess the field as most of the runners will be running 2000m for the first time.
“I’m expecting my horse to run well and I’m sure he’ll be attacking the line at the finish.”
Cranbourne-based Laming, who will be trackside at Fannie Bay on Saturday, saw his horse So Poysed run sixth in the NT Derby last year after finishing a narrow second in the Darwin Guineas behind Krusty.
Meanwhile, Mulligan Falls continues to surprise and impress the Templeton stable.
Like Stratum On Fire, Mulligan Falls is also a three-year-old gelding.
Mulligan Falls came close to breaking his maiden status when second behind Big Blows over 1300m at Fannie Bay on June 30.
A week later he stepped up to 1600m and got the cash when he defeated Marina, Hildisvini and Alentours – who will also line up in the NT Derby.
It was his seventh career start, but it secured him a place in the NT Derby.
“When he won that 1600m race we thought that he was going to win by six lengths,” Moe-based Paul Templeton said.
“He only won by almost a length, which proved to us that he was waiting for his rivals – he didn’t have his mind on the job.
“Therefore after speaking with Wayne Davis we decided to add blinkers and that seems to have done the trick.
“It has sharpened him up and he is working well – I’m happy with him and we’re in with a chance.
“He deserves to run in the Derby and although his breeding doesn’t suggest he can get 2000m we’ve got our fingers crossed that he will be competitive.
“He has always been a horse that seems to travel well during a race – I watched him in Moe when he was younger.
“That’s one of the reasons I bought him when he became available on the market.
“After getting the mile at his last start everything points to him running out a good 2000m.
“He is progressing nicely and the NT Derby is the next step in his career.”
The sprinters and stayers will continue their preparation for the $135,000 bet365 Palmerston Sprint (1200m) on August 4 and $200,000 Carlton Mid Darwin Cup (2000m) on August 6 at Fannie Bay on Saturday.
Gary Clarke’s Neat Feat (Gary Clarke) is in grand form and is arguably the best horse running around in the Northern Territory today.
The seven-year-old gelding faces yet another big test in the Elsey On Parap WFA (1200m) against Dick Leech’s Sacambaya (Jason Maskiell), Greg Connor’s Le Commandant (Paul Shiers), Richard Laming’s Reuttiger (Jason Lyon), Garry Lefoe Jnr’s Niccoco (Raymond Vigar) and Neil Dyer’s Arctic Song (Jarrod Todd).
Craig Conron’s I Am The Fox (Jason Lyon) has struck form in recent weeks over 1600m against high-quality opposition, but the Million Dollar Fish Buntine Handicap (1900m) will prove his genuine Cup credentials once and for all.
The four-year-old gelding has never ran beyond 1600m and will confront some wily stayers in one of the major races leading up to the Darwin Cup.
Michael Hickmott’s Lieder (Jason Maskiell) and Adatto (Bobby El-Issa), Garry Lefoe Jnr’s Peressini (Paul Denton), John Peacock’s Senior Council (Raymond Vigar), Jason Manning’s Saturday Sorcerer (Vanessa Arnott), and Phil Cole’s Pretty Blonde (Justin Potter) and The Wild Side (Jarrod Todd) cannot be dismissed so easily.
Darwin Tips at Fannie Bay – July 21
Selections by David White
Race 1 – 2 MOORE ALPHA, 4 Preemptive, 3 Hussor, 1 Bridgey Flyer, 9 Que Pasa
Race 2 – 3 NEAT FEAT, 7 Sacambaya, 2 Le Commandant, 5 Ruettiger, 4 Niccoco
Race 3 – 3 AUSSIE JACK, 5 Brooklyn, 2 Patronizing, 4 The Hummel, 7 Moral Outrage
Race 4 – 7 GERONIMO’S SON, 6 Sabai Sabai, 2 Needy Rocket, 4 Edge Of Chaos, 8 Puzzled Princess
Race 5 – 5 WICKED PROMISE, 3 Girl Happy, 4 Inwood, 2 Crackajack, 6 French Tusson
Race 6 – 11 TURF MAN, 3 Brunswick Street, 10 Stratum On Fire, 8 Patria, 7 Mulligan Falls
Race 7 – 7 I AM THE FOX, 1 Lieder, 2 Peressini, 6 Senior Council, 3 Saturday Sorcerer