When Mio Dio stormed down the outside to claim last Saturday’s Group 3 Spring Stakes, it was a bit of history repeating for Todd Pannell and Will Clarken.
In April of 2012 the two combined to give Pannell his first ever Group 3 win aboard Molto Bene in the Sire’s Produce Stakes.
Five years later, Pannell is coming off his best season in terms of Stakes wins where he won four South Australian Stakes races in 2016/17, a feat that was only beaten by Damien Thornton who collected five.
Pannell partnered Riziz to two Listed wins in the City of Adelaide and Oakbank Stakes. Piloted the undefeated Desert Lashes in the Listed Redelva Stakes and combined with Will Clarken to claim the Listed City of Marion Stakes aboard Cavalcoce.
“Last season was my best in terms of Stakes winners. I was just getting on a lot of better horses. It was a bit weird because I didn’t have as many consistent winners like I did the season before but you want to ride those good horses in Stakes races, so that was great.”
Pannell’s career in the saddle started when he was seventeen, moving to Sydney to take up his apprenticeship with Hall of Fame trainer John Hawkes at Crown Lodge.
“I’d basically known him most of my life as my dad was the foreman for his Adelaide stable for about 20 years. He was the best to learn from. He was a bit old school but he was honest and would tell you what you did wrong. He was great at helping me learn from my mistakes.”
Pannell completed his apprenticeship with Hawkes and continued to ride for him in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane where he rode 108 winners around the country for his boss.
“When his (Hawkes) Brisbane stable closed in 2007 I spent a bit more time up in Queensland but It was quite hard to get consistent rides. In 2010 I got to the point where I just needed a change and decided to come back home to Adelaide. It all came about pretty quickly in the end as it was an easy decision to make.”
“When I first came back to Adelaide I had a lot of rides for David Balfour and Mark Kavanagh when he was training here. The Balfour’s have been great for me in the seven years since I’ve been back.
Since his return, Pannell has notched up 45 winners for Ryan Balfour including 19 in his 2015/16 season where he notched up his career best 71 wins.
“I was riding a lot for Balf (Ryan Balfour) that season and we had a lot of success. He was a big help for me and continues to be to this day. “
“There are a lot of similarities between David and Ryan, he learnt a lot from him. Ryan is great with the horses and I think his best asset is how he communicates with the owners. That’s almost his biggest strength.”
Another of Pannell’s big supporters is young trainer Will Clarken. The two have now combined for four Stakes wins and have a 21% strike rate together.
“Will’s been really good to me. He’s a really smart trainer. He’s got a small team and that allows him to spend time with each horse and that attention to detail really shows.
As we head into the warmer months and the Eyre Peninsula racing season starts up, Pannell is looking forward to another good season at Port Lincoln where he has ridden 45 winners over his career.
“I love riding in Port Lincoln. Simon Drewitt has been amazing for me there. He has such a good team and I reckon he’s the best trainer over there so I’m happy to keep going back as I always get the support.
Pannell’s 2017/18 season is off to a flying start, already riding seven winners in the first month. He’s currently sitting second behind Paul Gatt on eleven but the Premiership isn’t on his mind at this early stage.
“I’ve never focused on that kind of stuff (Premierships). I just want to ride as many winners as I can. My motto is to just keep turning up week in week out and I believe the results will follow.”
And with the form he’s currently in, there will be plenty more feature wins in store for Todd Pannell this season.