Local galloper Spartan Eagle has shortened dramatically in the betting for the $200,000 Carlton Mid Darwin Cup (2000m) on Monday after scoring a decisive win at Fannie Bay last Saturday.
Trainer Bob Richard has a good chance to return the silver ware back to the Top End if Spartan Eagle can repeat his commanding five and three quarter lengths win last weekend in the $50,000 Sky Racing Metric Mile (1600m).
The last two Darwin Cups have been won by Kyneton trainer Neil Dyer with Hawks Bay but the rising eight year old will have to show drastic improvement if he is to make it a hat trick of wins in the Northern Territory’s most prestige race.
Hawks Bay, ridden by Adam Nicholls, could only manage to finish seventh to Spartan Eagle in the Metric Mile.
While early Darwin Cup favourite Extra Zero finished ten lengths further back after getting choked down from the sand kick back.
The official stewards’ report stated that stable representative for trainer David Hayes, Gary Hennessy, believed that Extra Zero “may have got sand in its throat during the race which was the cause of its coughing.”
Hennessey had stated before the running of the Metric Mile that the six year old gelding had acclimatised well and went into the race full of confidence.
“He’s improved on what he looked like in Melbourne, he’s certainly appreciated the warmer weather,” Fennessy told ntnews.com.au last Friday.
“He has had time to acclimatise – he arrived in town on July 5 and has had a couple of nice gallops leading into this race.”
With the benefit of a run on the sand track and the arrival of top Sydney jockey Nash Rawiller to take over from Ashley Thompson, punters are expecting a much improved performance from Extra Zero.
Spartan Eagle now heads the Darwin Cup market order at $4.80, just ahead of Red Colossus at $5 and Bolton at $6.
Extra Zero is marked as a $7 chance with Hawks Bay at $10 to make it three Cup wins on the trot.
The main sprint race on the program is the $35,000 Wolf Blass Lightning (1000m).