By Ray Hickson
As far as personal milestones go, winning a $2 million race is a big one but jockey Aaron Bullock will have to settle for the chance to finally claim his first metropolitan win at Randwick on Saturday.
Bullock, of course, was the partner of unbeaten colt Jonker in his first two starts and on that youngster he posted his biggest career win to date in the Wyong Magic Millions last month.
But connections replaced him with Hugh Bowman on the second favourite for the Magic Millions Classic. He’s made his peace with that decision and says he’ll be cheering Jonker on from the Randwick jockeys room.
“There’s plenty of ups and downs in racing and that’s just one of the downs,’’ Bullock said.
“You have to learn to handle it. I love the horse, he’s a little trier and it’d be good to see him win.
“I reckon he can win, he couldn’t have been more impressive in his two starts.’’
It’s surprising to note that the 27-year-old has only had 16 city rides – 14 of them in Sydney – out of around 1500 career rides to date.
Bullock has worked for Kris Lees for the past three years and rides work six mornings a week and said Lees has handed him a prime opportunity for that maiden city win with the ride on progressive mare Sugar Bella in the ATC Owners Benefit Card Handicap (1400m).
The four-year-old has been dynamic in her two wins since joining the Lees team and Bullock has got to know her well in trackwork.
“When you put her with a mate you can tell she’s a good horse, when she’s just by herself she’s a lovely relaxed animal and just does what she has to do,’’ he said.
“Watching her in her runs she gets back and is one of those horses that can wait and wait so the extra furlong would suit her down to the ground.’’
Sugar Bella ($1.80 with TAB) defied an on pace pattern in winning over 1200m at Randwick on December 30, where Punters Intel data showed her running a sizzling 32.81 for her last 600m.
“The way she chases them down is a big attribute. Her last 50 or 100m in every one of her races is when she’s been hitting top gear,’’ Bullock said.
Lees also provides Bullock with the rides on lightly raced four-year-old Reach For Heaven and evergreen stayer Olympic Academy at Randwick.
Reach For Heaven resumes in the Book Summer Hospitality Today Handicap (1200m) on the back of a barrier trial win that proved to Bullock he’s on track to run well fresh.
Reach For Heaven wins his trial at Newcastle - January 5
“We’ve had a few issues along the way but we have him the best we’ve ever had him and he loves it fresh,’’ he said.
“There were 18 trials the other day at Newcastle and he ran the slickest trial so that suggests we have him spot on.’’
Olympic Academy is back up in distance in the Tab.com.au Handicap (2400m) after running last at Randwick on December 30 and Bullock has had two rides on the seven-year-old for a win in the 2016 Taree Cup.
Bullock starts his day aiming to keep an unbeaten record on Bray intact in the TAB Highway Handicap (1600m) after successive wins at Scone.
Bray, trained by Brett Cavanough, steps to the mile for the first time and Bullock said he hopes the gelding will settle as he tended to want to fight the rider in his last start win.
“He’s deserved of his chance to come to town,’’ he said.
“It’s never easy to win a maiden then go to your next run and win. His major attribute is he tries, once he gets his head in front he’ll keep trying.’’