It was a long eleven race meeting, but the last race climax was well worth the wait for trainer Nicole Bruggemann and jockey Jessie Philpot who claimed the 2021 Great Northern Darwin Cup with the five-year-old Epaulette gelding Highly Decorated.
The win came in Bruggemann’s first attempt at the Darwin Cup and Philpot became the first female rider to salute in the Northern Territory’s biggest race as Highly Decorated, after sharing the lead for most of the trip, simply refused to yield ground in a pressurised run to the home turn and instead laid down a law of his own in the home straight which saw him kick away to win by a clear-cut 2.70 length margin.
This feature win continued Highly Decorated run of success which has seen him post an almost perfect record since taking up the next stage of his career in the Northern Territory.
He has raced on eight occasions in the Top End and, apart from his first-up run in the Northern Territory yielding a third place, Highly Decorated has now put together a seven-race winning sequence as he has carried all before him winning over distances ranging from 1300m to 2050m.
“I thought he got the lead coming past the post (for the first time) a little easier than I thought he was going to,” said Bruggemann. “I thought there might have been a little more take him on.
“Then they were three wide down the back and you just keep doubting yourself.
“Even halfway down the straight I thought … he is still in front, he is still in front … I can’t watch.
“Have a look at the size of him. He’s tiny, but he just plays with them. I haven’t had a bigger win than this. This is it!
Jessie Philpot was similarly enamoured with her win.
“He is just a ripper of a horse,” said Philpot. “He still had to do a little bit of work today and I thought it was a very tough run. I was waiting for something to run me down, but I didn’t look back.
“Being on the fence here, I think with a lighter weight and if you can ping off the corner … it works out well.”