Darwin’s leading trainer Gary Clarke will be chasing a feature race double when he saddles up the favourite Zahspeed in the 2018 $200,000 Carlton Mid Darwin Cup (2000m) at Fannie Bay in Darwin today.
Clarke produced the winner of the feature sprint of the 2018 Darwin Cup Carnival with Captain Punch scoring a runaway seven and a quarter lengths win in the $135,000 Palmerston Sprint (1200m) at Fannie Bay on Saturday.
Zahspeed is coming off a five lengths win in his final Darwin Cup lead up race in the $60,000 Chief Minister’s Cup (1600m) on July 14 and is the solid $2.60 for today’s Darwin Cup at Ladbrokes.com.au while Clark’s other runner Kifaah is marked at $17.
“He (Zahspeed) has had no setbacks. He has done nothing wrong coming into this,” Clarke told Moody On The Mic .
“He won the Chief Minister’s pretty authoritatively so I am pretty happy with where he is.”
Zahspeed has drawn barrier two in the final twelve horse Darwin Cup field who will be ridden again by leading jockey Brendon Davis who has been aboard the seven year old at his last two starts.
Davis was able to get the nod from Clarke to stick with Zahspeed after the leading trainer’s wide Sharlene revealed that champion Sydney jockey Hugh Bowman had made inquiries to secure the Darwin Cup mount.
“Hugh is mates with some of Zahspeed’s owners, and he put his hand up to ride him in this year’s Cup,” Clarke’s wife Sharlene told the NT News.
“But Gary said no – he wanted to give the ride to our stable jockey, Brendon Davis.
“Brendon has ridden horses for us all year round, in trackwork and during the wet season, and Gary wanted to do the right thing by him with a lot of money being up for grabs in this race.
Bowman did steer Clarke’s first Darwin Cup winner Lightinthenite to a nine lengths victory in 2015.
The John Hichmott trained Lieder (Jamie Kah, barrier 4) has had plenty of support on race morning and has firmed in to be the second favourite at $4.20, displacing his stablemate Turf Man who is now on the third line of betting at $4.60.
The South Australian trained Turf Man is the baby of the field, having only turned four on the horse’s birthday on the 1st of August, and will jump from gate nine with Dom Tourneur getting a late call up to replace Sairyn Fawke.
Turf Man only broke through for his maiden win four starts back at Port Augusta on June 14 and with two more wins from his next three starts, including a win in the $135,000 Ladbrokes NT Derby (2000m) at Fannie Bay in Darwin and finds himself as one of the main fancies for the Darwin Cup.
The Richard Laming trained Folk Tales (Jason Lyon, barrier 5) is the only other runner under the $10 mark at $8.50.