Leading Darwin trainer Gary Clarke believes he has Lightinthenite at his peak and can go one better than last year when he lines up in the $200,000 Carlton Mid Darwin Cup (2000m) at Fannie Bay on Monday.
In the 2014 Darwin Cup Lightinthenite was beaten in a tight photo finish by Saturday Sorcerer and Pretty Blonde but was promoted to second place after the winner returned a positive swab and was disqualified.
At his previous start Lightinthenite had finished fourth to Smarty Mac in the $55,000 Asian United Food Service Chief Minister’s Cup (1600m) at Fannie Bay but this year the gelding was able to produce a one and three quarter lengths win over Design For Life in the important Darwin Cup lead up race.
Clarke said that last year they were a little behind with his preparation but everything has gone to plan in the lead up to this year’s Darwin Cup.
“It is what we did last year — we were a bit behind with him last year all the time,” Clarke told the NT News.
“This year we are way ahead and where we want him.”
Lightinthenite has pulled up well after his win in the Chief Minister’s Cup on July 11 and has continued to please Clarke on the tracks.
“He is good, he is working well and I am happy with him,” Clarke said.
“He did some fast work Monday and will probably do some more fast work Friday then that will probably do him.”
Newly crowned Sydney’s premier jockey Hugh Bowman has been lured to Darwin by part owner and friend Mick Burns to partner Lightinthenite in the Darwin Cup and this will ensure the gelding will start a clear cut favourite.
Bowman will also be on the Burns owned Underestimation in the $135,000 Palmerston Sprint (1200m) at Fannie Bay on Saturday.
“Burnsy is a good mate of mine and a part owner of both of them, so it will be good to win the Cup for my mate and the rest of them,’’ Bowman said.
Burns is thrilled to have Bowman on his horse in the Darwin Cup and is certain he will be well received in the Top End at Carnival time.
“He’s at the top of his game right now after winning nine Group 1 winners in the last year and the nearest rider to him is six,” Burns said.
“He’s a great bloke and a great jockey and I think it’s good for racing if we get people like that coming up to Darwin.
“There are a lot of southern racing people coming up and Hugh knows he’ll get some good old fashioned Territory hospitality while he’s here.’’
In early betting for the Darwin Cup Ladbrokes.com.au have Lightinthenite the $3.60 favourite ahead of the Gai Waterhouse trained Travolta at $4.50 and last start Darwin winner Royal Request at $7.