Birdsville double for Todd Austin

Barcaldine trainer dominates early at the Birdsville races

They're racing at Birdsville

They're racing at Birdsville


Opening day of the Birdsville Cup carnival belonged to Todd Austin and Matthew Palmer


BARCALDINE trainer Todd Austin and a jockey with a real racing pedigree took first day honours at the annual Birdsville carnival.

Austin legged Matthew Palmer, son of the late and highly talented Gary Palmer, aboard back-to-back winners Wicked Express and Fully Maxed.

Wicked Express, bred on the western side of the Darling Downs, was an easy winner of the TAB Class 5 Handicap (1200m). Starting favourite at $3, Wicked Express had a margin of two and a quarter lengths over runner-up Wicked Affair ($12) at the end.

It was the fifth career win for Wicked Express and lifted his racetrack earnings beyond $100,000.

Fully Maxed ($9.50) started at more generous odds but was still good enough to snare victory by a length over the favourite Splitz ($3.20) and I Am Impinge ($9) was third, finishing a further one and three-quarter lengths away.

The opening race for the carnival was won by the Denise Ballard-trained Have A Go Joe. He gave Mt Isa the first leg of a winning double for trainers from the major mining town.

Jason Babarovich, once apprenticed in Brisbane and now holding a dual trainer-jockey licence, sealed the double for the Isa when Bold Sam ($20) was able to spring an upset in the Birdsville Hotel Class 1 (1200m).

Tambo trainer Bryan Dixon (Enjoyable in the Outback Mates Handicap) and Rodney Robb of Nyngan (Supreme Attraction in the Not Just Hardware Handicap) were also successful on the day.

Palmer will hope his winning momentum carries over to the second day of the carnival after taking the mount on Birdsville Cup (1600m) topweight Java.

Trained in Darwin by Gary Clarke, Java is likely to be one of the top market picks for the $40,000 Cup.

Java's form is on an upward trajectory. He resumed from a summer break to run ninth of 10 in an 1100m dash at Fannie Bay in Darwin on June 6.

He then stepped up to 1200m and ran fourth there on June 20 before improving to finish third behind Ihtsahymn in a 1600m event on July 27.

At his most recent outing Java handled the 2000m well to win by a half length, claiming the ninth winning cheque of his career.

Bevan Johnson is sticking with Brisbane apprentice Minonette Kennedy for Fab's Cowboy after they shared a Roma win on August 24.

Reach For Heaven, to be ridden by David Rewald, Cashing Up (Cecily Eaton) and Le Drama (Ric McMahon) are the other last start winners among Cup acceptors.

Les "Bubba" Tilley is likely to ride Eschiele for trainer Leslie Baker because Don't We Love It, for whom he had a prior booking, was only listed as a second emergency.


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