SPORT Clarke eyes missing piece
GARY Clarke has had a stellar career as a horse trainer in the Northern Territory, but there is one thing missing – an Alice Springs Cup.
The Top Ender hopes his luck will change with two strong runners in the $70,000 feature over 2000m at Pioneer Park today.
Clarke’s Java and Final Hearing will be among the runners for the Cup, raced for the first time minus spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The most recent best placing Clarke has had with a horse at the Alice Springs Cup was Big Man’s second in 2016.
“The Alice Springs Cup is the only feature race I haven’t won in the Territory,” Clarke said. “I’ve been close before, and run a lot of seconds and thirds. These two horses are probably just as good a chance as any of the others I have had in it, if not better.
“My line of thought every year I come here is that I’ll win the Cup.”
Java won the $30,000 Red Centre Technology Partners Chief Minister’s Cup (1600m), with Final Hearing finishing in third place last week.
“I like both their chances,” Clarke said. “They both had good runs in the lead-up race, the Chief Minister’s, with Java winning it and Final Hearing, he was doing his best work right at the end of the race.”
Clarke is confident Java will be able to handle the extra distance this weekend.
“Java’s untried, he’s never been further than 1600m,” he said. “But in saying that, when we got him he’d never been further than 1300m. It wasn’t until we tried him at the 1600m, he’s won about four or five of them now.
“The way he actually found the line the other day I can’t see why he probably wouldn’t get the 2000m.
“Probably the best part I liked about it was the last 100m when he was actually starting to draw away from the second horse on the line.
“I think he’s fit enough to make the extra distance.”
Clarke also has The Captain contesting the Pioneer Sprint (1200m) today.
“He’s the right horse for the job, but he does have to carry a big weight,” Clarke said.
“Between 1200m-1300m is his best distance.”
Clarke said racing to no crowds during the Alice Springs Cup Carnival had taken a little getting used to.
“I wouldn’t say there is less pressure. It’s very different and I suppose you could say there is no atmosphere there. It’s just like a day at trials,” he said.