By Alexander Grant
Sunday's edition of the Bathurst Cup will go down as one of the best in the race’s history after Hirokin held on to win against a wall of determined challengers. Hirokin ($6) gave Warwick Farm trainer Jarrod Austin and jockey Mitchell Bell their first victory in the $50,000 Bathurst classic at Tyers Park but not before going through a tense photo finish.
Race outsider Subway Surfer ($81, Ken Dunbar) came within a head of causing what would have been a major upset for Rylstone trainer Greg Hook. Illyrian ($16) filled out the minor placings just ahead of favourite Letters To Juliette ($2.60) to see the top four all finish within a neck of each other.
Hirokin led from start to finish in a seventh career win, and made it his second victory from as many starts at Bathurst.
Austin’s seven-year-old gelding took up the running as the field went past the post for the first time. Illyrian drew up alongside Hirokin on the first turn.
Letters To Juliette made a three-wide move to join the leaders across the back straight and Subway Surfer led the rest of the field two lengths away.
Into the turn for home Letters To Juliette had worked her way away Illyrian to sit on Hirokin’s outside.
Illyrian and Subway Surfer were a length and a half away from the leading pair with 600m left to race. When the field straightened for home Hirokin continued to hold a slender lead over Letters To Juliette, but there was no shortage of challengers stretched across the width of the track.
Inside the final 200m Illyrian was the fastest finisher, inching past Letters To Juliette on the way to the line, but was giving up too much ground to take down Hirokin and Subway Surfer. Hirokin had enough left in the tank to keep Subway Surfer behind him, proving the best of a four-strong wall of horses.
“Jarrod works hard and in bringing the horse here today he was very confident. We had a nice horse in this race. After winning nicely at Hawkesbury he was always going to be competitive here,” winning jockey Bell said.
“This horse had won eight races. He’s primed and knows how to win, but getting him to turn up on the day is the hardest thing. Jarrod had him well prepared for today and he got the job done.”
Lack of race pace forced Bell to change up his approach to the race but it still delivered the jockey the end result he desired.
“I was happy to dictate terms once the speed fell away. I thought there was going to be more speed in the race, which would have helped us, because we wanted to take a sit and work off that,” he said. “Luckily I got very nice, easy sectionals for the first 500m to 600m and that helped us in the long run.
“He’s up and down, this horse. He can turn up on his day and put anything away then other days he won’t have a crack. It’s about getting the horse happy and Jarrod was able to do that today. I know the horse well enough to know that he was waiting for the other horses. He was never going to let them past him.”
Sunday’s result is the closest finish in a Bathurst Cup since the 2008 edition where Predominance beat Are You Joeken by a half head.