Four interstate jockeys will welcome 2023, as well as endure the monsoonal rains in the Top End, when they ride at the Darwin Turf Club's final meeting of the year on Saturday.
Brisbane-based Nathan Day and Cecily Eaton, Canberra's Jack Martin, and Adelaide apprentice jockey Britney Wong will feature in one of the biggest meetings to ever take place at Fannie Bay in December.
A total of 76 horses have accepted for the eight-race program, which perhaps comes as no surprise after the meeting on December 17 was abandoned when a freak lunchtime storm made the track unsuitable for racing.
Day, Eaton and Wong have ridden at Fannie Bay in the past, but for Martin it will be his first meeting.
All four jockeys might end the year on a good note as they have secured decent bookings.
“I have never been to Darwin, the opportunity arose, my manager Andrew Northridge sort of teed it up,” Martin said from Canberra on Friday.
“I think a mate of his had a connection to the trainers or the Darwin Turf Club.
“I didn't have much booked for Saturday – I would have been just sitting at home drinking beers otherwise, so I thought I'd better go up and do a bit of work.
“I don't know how long I'm going to keep riding for, so I thought I would tick it off the list and decided to head up.
“A weekend away, I guess, it's a bit unique the racing up there as well.
“Never ridden on the dirt before, I've ridden on a lot of synthetic tracks.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity to spin a few around on the surface up there.
“I've always wanted to go up there – more so for the Cup week, I've heard it's a good week.”
Martin, who booted Smuggler's Bay to victory for trainers Ron Weston and John Nisbet at Canberra on Friday, will fly to Sydney on Saturday morning before boarding a flight to Darwin for his NT sojourn.
“I don't know anyone up there,” he added.
“It will be good to meet new people and hopefully have a good weekend.
“I will have to have a bit of a look at the form when I'm on the phone tomorrow morning.
“I've ridden in every other state, except the Northern Territory – but I'll be ticking it off tomorrow.
“Go up and earn a dollar and see what all the fuss is about up there.
“Also see what Darwin has to offer on New Year's Eve.”
Wong, who kicked off her riding career in June before making her Darwin debut in September, is once again looking forward to her trip north.
“Apart from the racing, Darwin is such a beautiful city,” she said from Adelaide on Friday.
“It feels like a little holiday every time I go there.
“I kind of enjoy the racing there – I think it's probably because of the dirt track, the momentum and all the speed.
“It's a lot different compared to a grass track.
“My boss Jon O'Connor tried to get me more rides and asked me if I wanted to go to Darwin because I think Mr Cole is one of Jon's friends.
“The first time I went up there I got a couple of placings for Mr Cole, it seems that things have worked out pretty good and he keeps supporting me.”
Wong left for Darwin on Friday afternoon and is hoping for success on this occasion, but her New Year's Eve celebration will be low key.
“I'm looking forward to get a winner or probably a couple of winners this time,” she said.
“In South Australia at the moment it's pretty hard to get rides, so it's quite exciting to have seven rides on Saturday.
“To be honest, Nokondi is probably my best chance – last time I rode him I ran second on him.
“I would say, pretty much, a majority of Mr Cole's rides are good rides and decent rides.
“I can't have a late night as I'm flying back to Adelaide on Sunday morning and then racing New Year's Day at Murray Bridge.
“For New Year's Eve, I will probably enjoy some oysters for dinner.”
Meanwhile, Day is bound for Darwin once again to ride for Tom Logan as partner Sonja Wiseman, the in-form jockey in the NT this season, is still recovering from minor wrist surgery.
Rockhampton-based jockey Ashley Butler filled Wiseman's shoes on December 9.
“I got a call from Sonja and her partner Tom – they needed a rider and I had not many rides around here, so I decided to go up,” Day said from Brisbane on Friday.
“I've been up there a couple of times – I just love riding there, it's good.
“Former Darwin trainer and jockey Carl Spry, who is now based at Townsville, first got me to the Top End.
“Sonja and Tom spent time in Rockhampton, that's why I know them, I know them well.”
There is another reason why Day, who has had three wins, two seconds and two thirds from 14 rides at Fannie Bay in the past, has headed to the Top End this weekend.
“Something to do, I guess,” he said.
“I've had the chance to go back, I'm going this time – it also works out good for me.
“I'll go there and then I'll head to Cairns on Monday, so I'll do a bit of a round trip.
“It will be good, I will be pretty quiet because I've got to ride light at Cairns.
“It's not every day you spend New Year's Eve in Darwin.
“I usually spend it at Emerald funnily enough – they have a meeting there too.
“I'm always away for New Year's Eve – that's alright.”
Day, who admits to knowing a few racing figures in Darwin, boarded a flight north on Friday night as he prepares to endure yet another Fannie Bay experience.
“I've got to be ready for eight races, it's going to be a big day,” he said.
“I've got a few decent rides, I've had a quick breeze over them.
“I watched a few of them race the other day, but I don't know much about them.
“Sonja and Tom said there's a few there that go good.”