Gary Clarke’s defending champion Lightinthenite leads the Darwin Cup 2016 field and early betting markets for the Northern Territory’s showcase race on Monday.
Kicking off the August racing action is the $200,000 Carlton Mid Darwin Cup (2000m), the handicap feature due to run as Race 9 at 5:25pm (local).
Hawks Bay (2011-12) recently went back-to-back in the Darwin Cup, a feat Clarke’s veteran Galileo gelding Lightinthenite is out to do this season after his nine length romp home in the race 12 months ago.
The warhorse turns nine on Monday, the Horse’s Birthday, and has had just the one run since his Darwin Cup victory last winter.
That was on July 9 at the track when carting a hefty 64kg to fourth behind Whistle Stop in the Chief Minister’s Cup (1600m).
The Darwin Cup weights see him drop a kilo to 63kg on Monday, still a big weight for the champ to cart around with Paul Shiers retaining the ride.
The bookies are taking no chances with Lightinthenite however who sits top of the current Darwin Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au paying $3.40.
Hot on his heels is the market mover and stablemate Finke at $3.50 to beat home the Darwin Cup field, which is down to 12 starters after the early withdrawal of Montalto (6).
Finke jumps from barrier seven carrying 54.5kg, the fellow Clarke-trained Turffontein gelding chasing his ninth win on the trot.
As a three-year-old Finke has done little wrong including winning the opening two legs of the Darwin Triple Crown with a 4.3 length victory in the Darwin Guineas (1600m) on July 2 followed by his last start victory as the odds-on favourite in the NT Derby (2000m) a fortnight later.
He chases the Ladbrokes $100,000 bonus with a win in the third leg on Monday, a feat not achieved since Ventilago (1996) 20 years ago.
Proven at the track and distance, Finke makes his four-year-old debut in the Darwin Cup and drops from 58kg as he prepares to take on the older more experienced gallopers in the lucrative clash.
A further three Darwin Cup acceptors are also under double figures for the win including last Saturday’s Metric Mile winner Our Valdivia ($5) who also comes off a winning streak.
The Lisa Lefore-trained Don Edurado gelding hails from Alice Springs and is after a fourth consecutive victory.
All three of his recent winter wins were achieved at Darwin Racecourse, where his record stands at a tidy three-from-four leading up to the Darwin Cup.
He saluted over the mile here defeating Whistle Stop on July 23 carrying 55.5kg and gets in on the same weight having been penalised a kilo for the Metric Mile victory.
Our Valdivia might be in top form, but from four runs over the Darwin Cup distance (2000m) he has just the one third place finish so will need to be improving.
Rounding out the chances under $10 in Darwin Cup betting are the aforementioned Street Sense gelding Whistle Stop ($7.50) and the rails-drawn Royal Request ($8) from the Victorian stables of Neil Dyer who Sydney hoop Tommy Berry travels up to ride.
Berry replaces Shayne Cahill in the saddle of the Bel Esprit gelding who has had 15 runs at the Darwin track for a good record of six wins and three seconds, his latest victory being over 1900m here on July 19.
Check out the full Darwin Cup 2016 field, barriers, jockeys, weights and latest Fixed Win odds below – prices courtesy of Ladbrokes.com.au!