Race 1  –  $20,000 Cancer Council NT 0-66 Handicap (1100m)

AFTER a narrow last start loss to the impressive Culzean, Sky Muster ($2.50 fav) bided his time on Saturday before hitting the front in the home straight to record a comfortable win.

The Gary Clarke-trained four year-old gelding was making his sixth start at Fannie Bay and it ended up being his second win – that made it four wins in 20 career starts.

Sky Muster has raced previously in Victoria and South Australia.

Greg Connor’s Nordic Express (Vanessa Arnott) held sway once the field jumped with Sky Muster, Connor’s Tea Tree Gully (Paul Shiers) and Mark Nyhan’s Gamora (Sairyn Fawke) in hot pursuit.

Neil Dyer’s Moral Outrage (Jarrod Todd) and Phil Cole’s Wicked Affair (Brendon Davis), both last start winners, missed the start and were never in the hunt.

Sky Muster (Carl Spry) cruised past Nordic Express ($31) with 100m to go and from that point the issue was never in doubt.

Tea Tree Gully ($7.50) finished well to catch Nordic Express in the closing stages to seal second place by a narrow margin.

It was revealed after the race that Moral Outrage bled – that’s the second time that has occurred in his career.

Sharlene Clarke, wife of trainer Gary Clarke, said: “It was a good win, I’m pretty happy. I’m stoked, but it’s about time that he won a race. We took the blinkers off today and it worked a lot better. Gary and Carl discussed taking off the blinkers after Sky Muster’s last race. Carl also rides him most mornings – he is not an easy horse to ride.”

Carl Spry said: “He can be a thinker, but taking off the blinkers after talking to Gary worked. He won alright in the end, but he was always going to get there. I may have been a bit too patient today, but he did have to work a bit. I have branched out on my own these days, but Gary and I go way back and at times when we join forces it pays dividends.”

Race 2  –  $32,000 Allora Gardens Nursery Flying Sprint (1100m)

TIMING is everything.

Niccoco had to win on Saturday to secure his spot in $135,000 bet365 Palmerston Sprint (1200m) at Fannie Bay this weekend.

It was a race that the Garry Lefoe Jnr-trained five-year-old gelding won last year.

Amazingly, Niccoco hadn’t won since winning the Northern Territory’s feature sprint race during the 2017 Darwin Cup Carnival.

A further 11 races at Morphettville, Balaklava, Gawler, Alice Springs and Darwin failed to yield success.

There was every chance Niccoco wouldn’t get to defend his Palmerston title before finally clicking into gear.

Entering Saturday’s race, Niccoco was sitting 15th when it came to qualifying for the Palmertson Sprint which accommodates 12 runners.

Niccoco, who won the 2017 Palmerston Sprint as the first emergency with a light weight, could not have been more impressive on Saturday.

The surprising $3.30 favourite was sitting midfield in fifth place before making his move at the 500m.

By the 200m, Niccoco (Jarrod Todd) had rounded up the leaders before getting the cash by two and a quarter lengths.

Dick Leech’s $6 hope Einstein Magic (Jason Lyon) bounced back to form to finish second from Greg Connor’s $4.40 chance Le Commandant (Paul Shiers).

Le Commandant, who spotted the other five starters in the race 5kg, led for most of the race before the 59kg took its toll.

Niccoco jumped from barrier six and according to his trainer that was a key factor.

“For some reason he is more comfortable outwide, but he had to produce something today,” Lefoe Jnr said.

“He has been a little bit off, but I was happy today and it’s the best he has performed this preparation.

“Timing is perfect and he will carry 54kg once again in the Palmerston.”

The suspended Raymond Vigar had the mount in last year’s Palmerston, but Jarrod Todd was in the saddle on Saturday.

Lefoe Jnr wasn’t sure who would get the ride next Saturday.

“I was pleased Garry rang me to ride the horse as Niccoco’s form hasn’t been that bad – it has been far from terrible,” Todd said.

“He has got to be a chance in the Palmerston once again.

“He pulled up well and I think there is still improvement in the horse.

“To be honest, I was waiting for someone to come from behind today.

“Niccoco is probably not as good as last year, but to beat a Pioneer Sprint winner in Le Commandant is a good effort.”

Race 3  –  $20,000 Darwin Racing SW Maiden Plate (1100m)

AFTER finishing unplaced in her first two starts in Victoria, three-year-old filly Lisa was purchased at the Alice Springs Tried Horse Sale in May during the Alice Springs Cup Carnival.

She then ended up at the stable of highly-experienced Alice Springs trainer Kevin Lamprecht before posting her first win at Fannie Bay on Saturday.

And it was an emphatic victory as Lisa led from start to finish.

The filly started well as Garry Lefoe Jnr’s pair Hello Gorgeous (Brendon Davis) and Rockatomic (Paul Shiers), Leah Walling-Denton’s Disco (Paul Denton), Chris Pollard’s Powerstretcher (Barry Huppatz) and Phil Cole’s Caitlin’s Angel (Melanie Tyndall) gave pursuit.

Once entering the home straight Lisa ($3.30) held firm as Rockatomic ($13) and Greg Connor’s $2.20 favourite Trystoff (Jason Lyon) started to wind up.

Rockatomic stuck to the rails and Trystoff headed for the outside, but Lisa (Felicia Bergstrand) never looked like buckling before sealing victory by almost two lengths.

Trystoff perhaps gave the leaders too much start as he finished a narrow third behind second-placed Rockatomic.

Part-owner Greg Aldam said: “It was only her third start – she is still a baby. As usual, Kevin (Lamprecht) has done a great job with Lisa. Kevin has been very patient as she is still immature. Lisa did trial well recently and her win today is another coup for the Alice Springs Tried Horse Sale. Kevin and Robyn Lamprecht have done a wonderful job with the horse and I must also thank regular trackwork ride Raymond Vigar. Raymond was suspended today and Felicia (Bergstrand) did a great job today.”

Felicia Bergstrand said: “It’s always good to win for Kevin, but I don’t see eye to eye with Lisa. She is a nice filly and won well today, but she is head strong. Raymond Vigar would have ridden her today had he not been suspended. She seemed to tire in the home straight today, but then kicked again. Lisa got going again and can definitely improve.”

Race 4  –  $40,000 TEN Darwin 3YO Handicap (1200m)

BRINGING three-year-old filly Riverina Romance to the Top End paid dividends for Port Lincoln trainer Angela Forster.

Purchased at a Melbourne sale in June, Riverina Romance had raced on 12 occasions in Victoria for just two wins.

Significantly, the filly won her last race at Pakenham over 1200m against 0-58 opposition on June 19 before heading to the Northern Territory.

In her first appearance at Fannie Bay, Riverina Romance was a narrow second behind American Genius in the AFA Insurance Class 6 Handicap (1100m) for three-year-olds on July 14.

On Saturday, Riverina Romance (Jason Lyon) was far too good for fellow three-year-olds who either didn’t have the class or stamina to contest the Darwin Guineas (1600m) or NT Derby (2000m).

Jumping to the lead and sticking to the fence on Saturday, Riverina Romance ($5) kicked in the home straight and never looked like losing.

John Peacock’s Toorak Road (Melanie Tyndall), along with hot pots American Genius (Brendon Davis) from the Gary Clarke and Kronos (Paul Denton) from the Stephen Brown yard did keep pace with Riverina Romance in the early stages.

Riverina Romance went on with the job in the home straight to overcome Neil Dyer’s fast-finishing Mulk (Jarrod Todd), a $9 hope, by almost two lengths.

Kronos ($1.75 fav), who finished second in the Darwin Guineas (1600m) behind Brunswick Street on July 7, travelled four wide for most of the trip and was a further five and a half lengths adrift in third place.

American Genius ($3.10) was most impressive on his Darwin debut, but he only laboured to finish fifth.

Owner David Cundy said: “I’m very happy. Riverina Romance’s first start here was good and she has certainly backed up. She was pretty impressive today and I’m happy to have a horse of that calibre in the race. I wasn’t overly confident today. We’ll wait and see how she pulls up before considering if she will race again during the Carnival.”

Jason Lyon said: “She is a nice filly and it was a soft win. I went hard early and I was able to hold the fence pretty easily. She was able to maintain a good cruising speed and I have no doubt that Riverina Romance will cover further ground with ease. Perhaps her future rests over 1300m, if not 1600m.”

Race 5  –  $20,000 104.1 Territory FM 0-58 Handicap (1200m)

APART from the winning connections, the bookies were also cheering at the end of the race on Saturday Phil Cole’s Mighty Tax (Sairyn Fawke) held on to win the race from the flying Mighty Mick (Stan Tsaikos), with Melanion, ridden and trained by Carl Spry, grabbing third place.

Both Mighty Tax and Mighty Mick started at $51, while Melanion was a $31 chance.

Gary Clarke’s $2.70 favourite Let’s Celebrate (Brendon Davis) was fourth.

Mighty Tax, a five-year-old gelding, jumped from barrier 11 in the 12 horse field which only added merit to the win.

For the former Queensland galloper, who debuted at Fannie Bay in September 2016, it was his first win since November last year – eight runs ago.

Let’s Celebrate jumped from barrier 10 and before long held sway after settling in front along the rails – suffice to say he chewed up plenty of petrol as he crossed in front of his rivals.

Neil Dyer’s Montana Air (Felicia Bergstrand), Mighty Tax, Heather Lehmann’s Baj (Kim Gladwin) and Garry Lefoe Jnr’s Combat Warriors (Paul Shiers) settled behind the leader.

Let’s Celebrate held a handy lead at the 400m, but once turning for home there was every chance he would tire.

Mighty Tax caught Let’s Celebrate before holding off the barnstorming Mighty Mick.

Melanion gave the leaders too much start, but managed to pip Let’s Celebrate for third place.

Dyer’s Latest Bentley (Jarrod Todd), a last start winner, wound up in the home straight to claim an eye-catching fifth.

Phil Cole said: “It’s good to see him back in form. He can be one dimensional and he doesn’t like chasing. He can be difficult at times, but there is no doubt the horse has ability. Felicia Bergstrand and Vanessa Arnott normally ride Mighty Tax during trackwork. Sairyn (Fawke) has been riding him at trackwork of late and he is a bit more aggressive. Sairyn’s aggression perhaps paid off today.”

Sairyn Fawke said: “I watched replays of his last two starts and I thought Mighty Tax was unlucky. He drew wide today and I was happy to let him roll. It was a strong win as he kept fighting and fighting. I’m happy because today’s win got the monkey off my back after not having the chance to ride Turf Man in the NT Derby because of suspension.”

Race 6  –  $50,000 Sky Racing Metric Mile (1600m)

HE won’t contest the Northern Territory’s biggest race come August 6, but Java left a number of Darwin Cup aspirants in his wake on Saturday.

Trained by Gary Clarke, who has sealed the Top End trainer’s premiership for the sixth straight year now that the 2017/18 season has ended, Java was superb.

The six-year-old gelding had never won beyond 1400m after 26 career starts before taking out the feature race on Day 5 of the Darwin Cup Carnival at Fannie Bay.

It was the last hit-out for the stayers before the $200,000 Carlton Mid Darwin Cup (2000m) this coming Monday.

That Java won the race might well have Darwin Cup connections concerned, but Clarke and his No.1 stable rider Brendon Davis pulled off a remarkable feat.

Java had won over 1400m at Sandown as a three-year-old and was victorious over 1300m at just his second start at Fannie Bay last December.

The fact that the former Victorian galloper was able to overwhelm his rivals over 1600m at the first attempt was extraordinary.

Speculation mounts that the plan was hatched a while ago and the Metric Mile did offer decent prizemoney.

Java ($13), racing at Fannie Bay for the seventh time, hit the front along the back straight after challenging Neil Dyer’s Gracious Prospect (Sairyn Fawke) and Angela Forster’s Lotion (Barry Huppatz) for the early lead.

The fact that Davis had Java, who finished seventh over 1100m on July 18, crawling along the back straight was an indication that there was perhaps doubt the horse would get the trip.

There was no pace, but with 700m to go Java took off and all of his rivals were off the bit.

The tactics bordered on the masterful as Java was five lengths clear at the turn before going on to win by three and a half lengths.

Gracious Prospect ($11) finished second and Lotion ($11), backing up for the third time in 10 days, was four lengths adrift in third place.

“He did it easy, but we were always keen to see how Java would go over the mile,” Clarke said.

“He couldn’t handle the good sprint races of late – he just wasn’t good enough, but in his defence he has been injury prone.

“There’s a 1600m race on Cup Day that might just suit Java at this stage.”

The fact that there was no genuine pace in the race was something the automatic Darwin Cup starters didn’t need.

Last year’s Cup winner Royal Request (Jarrod Todd) finished strongly for fourth, while Clarke’s $3.10 favourite Kifaah (Richie Oakford) was fifth.

Neuschwanstein (8th), Lake Jackson (9th) and Foundation (10th) were the other Cup runners in the Metric Mile.

Davis said: “Java has good gate speed and we were able to run some good sectionals.

“He certainly kicked away in the end – it was a big effort by the horse.

“There was a query about getting the mile, but I was certainly on the right horse today.”

Despite his endless success, it was first time Davis had tasted success in the Metric Mile.

Race 7  –  $20,000 Top End Line Markers 0-70 Handicap (1600m)

HE enjoys giving the leaders a big start before storming home, but Halogem pushed it to the very limit before getting the cash on Saturday.

Mark Nyhan’s four-year-old gelding (Jason Lyon) was a clear last as the field swung into the back straight.

Even with 200m to go, the Alice Springs galloper was no chance of finishing in the first three.

However, he was steaming home and in the shadows of the post he grabbed Sheila Arnold’s Quantum Dot (Paul Denton) to win by a long neck.

It was an incredible performance, especially as Halogem’s last win was against 0-58 opposition.

It also meant back to back wins for Halogem over 1600m after flopping once in Victoria and twice in Darwin in the past over the mile.

Quantum Dot and Kerry Petrick’s Our Barty (Wayne Davis) were the early leaders before Garry Lefoe Jnr’s Grand Teton (Kim Gladwin), Sherrie Lawlor’s Rockmeartie (Felicia Bergstrand) and Neil Dyer’s Bel Sir (Jarrod Todd) made their moves.

By the 1000m, Halogem ($4.60) was sixth.

Grand Teton ($2.90 fav) hit the front at the 800m and continued to lead turning for home before getting the staggers.

Quantum Dot ($3.50), who is always competitive in Darwin, pounced and looked set to win from Our Barty and John Hickmott’s fast-finishing Tropper’s Ploy (Sairyn Fawke) before Halogem arrived on the scene.

Halogem was fantastic and Quantum Dot was desperately unlucky, while Our Barty ($21) filled the minor placings.

Trooper’s Ploy was fourth and Grand Teton, who has promised so much yet has delivered very little since arriving in Darwin, was fifth.

Mark Nyhan said: “He is going OK and he’s a good horse. He was a mile back and in the end I didn’t think he would get there. He is still a little immature, but he has a few gears and a lot of ability. Halogem is a late developer and he just keeps getting better. He was up in grade today and the fact he has won back to back is great.”

Jason Lyon said: “He was good the other day and he was good again today – it was a big step up in grade though. By the 800m he was travelling OK and was starting to build up momentum. He does like chasing from the rear of the field and produced a powerful burst to the line today. I thought he was going to run a clear second which just goes to prove what a good little horse he is.”

2018 Darwin Cup Carnival  –  Asian United Food Service Trainers and Jockeys Bonus (Day 5)

Trainers ($5000) – 6 Gary Clarke; 4 Phil Cole; 3 Dick Leech, Neil Dyer, Garry Lefoe Jnr; 2 Heather Lehmann, Karen Byrnes. Kerry Petrick, Mark Nyhan; 1 Paul and Tracey Templeton, Craig Conron, Bob Richard, Carl Spry, David Bates, John Hickmott, John Peacock, Kevin Lamprecht, Angela Forster

Jockeys ($3000) – 7 Jason Lyon; 6 Jarrod Todd; 5 Brendon Davis; 4 Jason Maskiell; 3 Felicia Bergstrand; 2 Carl Spry, Wayne Davis, Barry Huppatz, Paul Shiers; 1 Paul Denton, Raymond Vigar, Sairyn Fawke

2017/18 Northern Territory Premierships (Final Standings)

Top End Premiership (Darwin, Adelaide River and Katherine)

Trainers – 47 Gary Clarke; 24 Phil Cole; 18 Carl Spry; 15 Kerry Petrick; 11 Neil Dyer; 9 Chris Pollard, Garry Lefoe Jnr; 8 David Bates, Jason Manning; 7 Tayarn Halter, Dick Leech, Bob Richard; 6 Mark Nyhan; 5 Patrick Johnston, Karen Byrnes, Heather Lehmann; 3 Sherrie Lawlor, Shane Clarke, Paul and Tracey Templeton, Craig Conron

Jockeys – 30 Brendon Davis; 24 Felicia Bergstrand; 22 Jason Lyon; 17 Carl Spry; 14 Wayne Davis, Paul Shiers; 13 Raymond Vigar; 12 Jarrod Todd; 11 Vanessa Arnott; 8 Kim Gladwin, Jason Maskiell; 7 Richie Oakford, Michelle Hagley, Paul Denton; 6 Barry Huppatz; 5 Kayla Cross, Phil Crich; 4 Stephen Ridler; 3 Blake Shinn; 2 Dom Tourneur, Sairyn Fawke

Alice Springs and Provincial (Alice Springs and Tennant Creek)

Trainers – 34 Lisa Whittle; 21 Leanne Gillett; 18 Dick Leech, Will Savage; 14 Mark Nyhan; 12 Greg Connor, Russell Bell; 11 Kevin Lamprecht; 5 Gary Clarke, Garry Lefoe Snr; 4 Kerry Petrick, Ken Rogerson; 3 Paul Gardner, Terry Huish; 2 Emmie Wehr, Garry Lefoe Jnr, George Cooke, Angela Forster, Darryl Oxlade, Shane Green

Jockeys – 26 Jason Lyon; 22 Raymond Vigar, Wayne Kerford; 20 Lorelle Crow; 14 Jarrod Todd; 13 Felicia Bergstrand; 9 Brendon Davis; 8 Kayla Cross; 7 Paul Denton; 6 Barry Huppatz, Stephen Ridler; 5 Luke Miller, Kim Gladwin; 4 Carl Spry; 3 Dom Tourneur, Chavas Johnson; 2 Ray Hancock, Sairyn Fawke, Stan Tsaikos; 1 Michelle Hagley, Dan Morgan