Veteran galloper Hawks Bay has a tough test ahead in Monday’s 2012 Darwin Cup, the Neil Dyer-trained champ seeking back-to-back wins and a weight-carrying record in the Northern Territory’s premier race.
The seven-year-old Black Hawk gelding from Kyneton has contested the past three Darwin Cups producing two seconds and their historic win 12 months ago in the $185,000 feature.
An ‘adopted’ local Hawks Bay first ran at Fannie Bay Racecourse in the winter of 2009 enjoying back-to-back success in the Darwin Guineas and NT Derby before a game second to Activation in the Darwin Cup over 2000m.
They returned in 2010 and produced a hapless second when defeated a mere nose by Shout Out Loud in the Cup again.
The always honest Hawks Bay finally broke his Darwin Cup maiden last year in impressive fashion when carrying a record 63kg to victory in the Metric Mile before their four length romp over Palmyra Boy in the Darwin Cup with 62kg on their back.
Things looked on track this time in as they won the Roant Gold Cup – Chief Minister’s Cup double at Fannie Bay in June and July.
However things went amiss last Saturday when Hawks Bay failed to handle their hefty weight imposition of 65kg when unsuccessfully defending their Metric Mile title.
Only managing to finish six lengths away sixth to fellow Darwin Cup 2012 hopeful Sheahan, who carried the 54kg minimum and was subsequently penalized 1.5kg for Monday’s showdown, Hawks Bay struggled during the run.
Dyer said they pulled up well however and it was all systems go for the cup.
“If you asked me if I was confident of winning the cup a week ago, I’d have said absolutely, but things weren’t looking so rosy after Saturday,” Dyer admitted.
“He was well below par. Steven (Arnold) got off and said he might have been feeling a front leg, but he pulled up fine and galloped yesterday and was spot on.
“He might have done too well between runs. We’ve still got a few days and we won’t miss him (in training).”
Thrilled with the impact his stable ace has had at Fannie Bay over the years, Dyer remains realistic over his chances on Monday with Hawks Bay allocated 64.5kg in the 2012 Darwin Cup weights.
“He never runs two bad runs in a row, so we’re still hopeful,” he said.
“It’s a lot of weight but he’s such a big, strong horse that it might not stop him – and he just loves the track up here.”
If they do manage to overcome the odds and the kilos winning their eighth NT feature, Dyer half-joked that it would be an effort deserving of the racetrack being renamed in their honour.
“We’ve got it all planned. If he wins, the Fannie Bay sign comes down and Hawks Bay goes up,” Dyer teased.
The 2012 Darwin Cup field and odds are due for release shortly so stay tuned.
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