On the first Monday of August the 61st edition of the Top End’s premier showdown will light up Fannie Bay Racecourse – Darwin Cup 2016 nominations now out.
Set to run on August 1, the Horse’s Birthday, this year’s $200,000 Carlton Mid Darwin Cup (2000m), run on the sand, has attracted 19 nominations.
The headline hopeful is the Gary Clarke-trained flyer Finke who is out to become the first winner of all three legs of the Darwin Triple Crown since Ventilago (1996) and just the third in history with Brinney (1989) the other to achieve the rare feat.
A winner of his eight most recent starts, Clarke’s ultra-consistent Turffontein young star joined The Ruffian (2011) and Host Of The Party (2013) as the most recent winners of the opening two legs of the series last run.
On the back of a Darwin Guineas (1600m) win at the start of the month, the youngster took out the Ladbrokes NT Derby (2000m) by one and a quarter lengths as the odds-on favourite last Saturday.
He has now won all five of his runs at the Fannie Bay track heading into Monday week’s Darwin Cup where he is sure to start dominant favourite in the markets at Ladbrokes.com.au in his first run as a four-year-old.
Clarke has a total of four Darwin Cup nominees this winter with Finke possibly joined in the capacity 12-starter Darwin Cup field by Big Man, Celebrakti and Lightinthenite.
Veteran Galileo nine-year-old Lightinthenite is a multiple Group 2 placegetter and Group 1 performer in Sydney and ran fourth to Fat Al in the 2012 Epsom Derby.
He was transferred to Darwin in 2014 and was runner-up in that year’s Darwin Cup behind Pretty Blonde before a runaway nine lengths success over Design For Life carrying an impressive 60kg in last year’s edition.
Lightinthenite defends his Darwin Cup title this season having had just one run over the last 12 months when fourth first-up on July 9 at the track behind Whistle Stop in the Chief Minister’s Cup (1600m) with a hefty 64kg on his back.
The Dick Leech-trained winner of that Darwin Cup lead-up as a $21 outsider, Street Sense five-year-old Whistle Stop is also among the nominations for next month’s feature.
He has a strong record at Fannie Bay (10-2-4-0) and at his last look at further than a mile, ran fifth in the Alice Springs Cup (2000m) back in May.
Alice Springs Cup winner Montalto is another Darwin Cup nominee, the Court Of Jewels mare prepared at Port Lincoln by Angela Forster.
She has had two runs since when fourth to Lago Girl over 1300m at Darwin in late May and her second to Whistle Stop in the Chief Minister’s Cup.
Forster has also nominated for her King Cugat eight-year-old Moon Devil who comes off a brave third behind Royal Request in last Saturday’s Million Dollar Fish Buntine Handicap (1900m) at the track.
Last year’s Darwin Cup runner-up Royal Request won that race, the Neil Dyer-trained Bel Esprit five-year-old to return to the track looking to go one better on the back of his sixth Darwin win from 15 starts.
Kym Healy’s High Rolling mare Pretty Blonde won the 2014 Alice Springs Cup – Darwin Cup double and finished third to Lightinthenite when unsuccessfully defending her title in the latter 12 months ago.
In the 2014 Darwin Cup Pretty Blonde was second past the post but was awarded the win after the disqualification of Saturday Sorcerer for a positive drug test.
Saturday Sorcerer meanwhile ran second to Royal Request in the 1900m clash last weekend and after his former trainer Stuart Gower copped a two year ban for the failed Darwin Cup drug test in 2014, the seven-year-old now represents local horseman Jason Manning.
See below for the full Darwin Cup 2016 nominations, the final field and barrier draw due for release on Thursday July 28.
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2016 Darwin Cup Nominations
Darwin Racecourse – 01/08/2016
|#||Form (Last 10)||Horse||Sex||Age||Trainer||Hcp. Rating|
|1||1425134222||ABU DHABI||G||4||Lloyd Kennewell||73|
|3||1770×11230||BIG MAN||G||6||Gary Clarke||81|
|4||5860x4x756||CANNY BALLAD||G||7||Michael Hickmott||77|
|7||475×813315||FLYING TORMENTA||M||5||John Peacock||73|
|11||1637234663||MOON DEVIL||G||8||Angela Forster||81|
|12||0223651745||MOONLIGHT HUSSLER||G||5||Danny Penna||61|
|13||x27357x527||ORION (NZ)||G||6||Kerry Petrick||78|
|14||3523393511||OUR VALDIVIA (NZ)||G||6||Lisa Lefoe||77|
|15||x005627x34||PRETTY BLONDE||M||8||Kym Healy||75|
|16||x9045x6591||ROYAL REQUEST||G||6||Neil Dyer||83|
|17||4693110×22||SATURDAY SORCERER||G||7||Jason Manning||82|
|18||1890×48370||SPARTAN EAGLE||G||9||Bob Richard||78|
|19||x065755541||WHISTLE STOP||G||6||Dick Leech||85|