Top End Glory - Darwin Cup 2014

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Hawks Bay is a two-time winner of the Darwin Cup. Image courtesy of:

The racing focus turns to the Top End for the running of the 2014 Darwin Cup at the picturesque Fannie Bay course. The Darwin Racing Carnival stretches over eight days and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Northern Territory. In fact, around 20,000 race goers head to the track for the Darwin Cup, which is run over 2000m and this year boasts prize money of $200,000.

Punters and personalities mix on and off the track as racing meets the Northern Territory’s other tourist attractions like fishing, crocodile safaris, national parks, pubs and of course the famous Darwin stubby.

The Gold Cup is the premier event of the Darwin Racing Carnival and dates back to 1956 when it was won by Satan’s Son which was owned, trained and ridden by Peter McCracken, and the only non-thoroughbred horse to salute.

In the 2014 edition, the Neil Dyer trained Cantonese  looks hard to beat. Formerly trained by John O’Shea and Bjorn Baker in Sydney, Cantonese is now with Dyer, who is based at Kyneton in country Victoria. But Dyer is in Arnhem Land wisely avoiding the winter cold back home by campaigning a team in Darwin.

After two placings in shorter lead-up races on the oil and sand circuit, the rising six-year-old (with seven wins and eight minors from 35 starts and just under $300,000 in stakes) will relish the step up to 2000m. Back after his holiday in the US, Sydney based jockey Blake Shinn has the ride on Cantonese. Dyer also has a very handy back-up horse in NT Derby winner Royal Request . 

Other leading hopes include Smarty Mac , which recently won the Chief Minister’s Cup, Lightinthenite  (another ex-Sydney galloper), Saturday Sorcerer  (trained by Stuart Gower in Adelaide and winner of the Metric Mile) and rising local star Gravitational .

While Cup day is always filled with fun and excitement, there will be a tinge of sadness associated with this meet. It heralds 12 months since the tragic death of jockey Simone Montgomerie who suffered a horrific fall from her mount Riahgrand in race 6 last year. Despite urgent medical treatment, the 26-year-old mother subsequently passed away on arrival at Darwin Hospital. Out of respect, and with many people in shock, the Darwin Turf Club abandoned the last three races, including the 2013 Darwin Cup.

TattsBet has a $25,000 Quaddie Jackpot (DR Races 6,7,8,9) and a $25,000 First 4 Jackpot (DR Race 9 - the Darwin Cup) on today's Darwin meeting. 

Chris Bombolas, Tatts Senior Writer

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