By Ray Hickson
You wouldn’t be shocked if Aaron Bullock is the first jockey to arrive at Randwick on Saturday, such is his excitement about picking up the ride on smart sprinter Special Reward.
Bullock has done plenty of work behind the scenes, in trackwork and trials, on the former Perth galloper and has developed a huge opinion of the gelding so he wants to get the job done for trainer Kris Lees who entrusted him with the ride with the leading hoops interstate.
It’s been a stellar season already for the 29-year-old, a clear leader of the NSW premiership with just under 100 wins and a close second to William Pike nationally, and to win on Special Reward is important to him.
“He’s just a good horse and when you get on horses like him, that give you the feel he does, they are few and far between for me,’’ he said.
“It’ll be only a matter of time before he wins a good race, I can see why Australian Bloodstock bought into him.’’
Special Reward, who won six from nine in Perth, had everything go wrong at his first start for Lees back on November 2 but was only beaten two lengths by Sandbar at Rosehill.
He drew the outside and missed the start, putting jockey Samantha Clenton in a tricky spot as the pair were forced to race three wide on the pace. After looking gone on the turn he rallied in a sign of the class Bullock now knows he has.
Lees had considered setting him for The Hunter if he’d won that race but elected to take stock and produces him in the Bisley Workwear Handicap (1200m) on the back of easy trial wins at Wyong and Newcastle.
“It didn’t work out at his first start and Kris did the right thing and tucked him away when they could have pressed on,’’ Bullock said.
“I didn’t know he was in the stable at that stage but this time I’ve been riding him a little bit, mostly fast work, but his two trials couldn’t have impressed me more.
“I wasn’t out to do much in his first trial but he still ran the fastest time of the morning in second gear. His cruising speed is above everything else and he can quicken off it.
“At his second trial Kris said to let him do a bit, I thought I was doing enough and held him to the 100m mark but when I gave him a squeeze he put five on them pretty quick. Only the good ones do that.’’
Special Reward wins a trial at Newcastle on December 30
From the inside alley on Saturday, Bullock said he’ll have plenty of options on Special Reward, who opened $3.80 with TAB on Wednesday, but is wary of the presence of noted on pacers Passage Of Time and Cradle Mountain.
“I‘m always one to ride in their comfort zone,’’ he said.
“I see in his Perth runs he was running them into the ground and when they came to him he’d kick again and find under pressure. He has a high cruising speed and if he can dictate the race we’ll be surely doing it.’’