By Ray Hickson
Aaron Bullock once gave away riding to work a construction job but he’s building towards riding in the biggest race of his career after guiding Jonker to a dominant win at Wyong on Thursday.
Surely the owners of the gun youngster couldn’t replace a rider who has done all the work guiding him to two impressive wins highlighted by the $200,000 Wyong Magic Millions (1100m).
The 27-year-old hoop rode the perfect race on Jonker, winner of the inaugural Max Lees Classic on debut, tracking the speedy La Pomme De Pin to the turn then sprinting clear when asked.
“I was happy to take a sit because I watched all the races up until now and for some reason they haven’t raced on the inside for two meetings and nothing was winning there,’’ Bullock said.
“I could have gone to the inside at the 400m but I stayed out because of the way the track was playing.
“I gave him a dig and was straight onto the bridle. He’s a horse that travels really well. He was never off the bit until I asked him to let down.’’
Jonker held a 4-1/2 length margin on the runner-up Skyray with Bondi running third after being stranded on the inside of horses.
The disappointment was the easing favourite Terminology who was squeezed out at the start, made a midrace run to be with the leaders on the turn before fading.
Bullock spent three years away from racing to work as a labourer on the Hunter Expressway in his early 20s and rated the Magic Millions win a career highlight.
But it could just be the start as Jonker was installed favourite for the $2 million Gold Coast Magic Millions (1200m) in January.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d keep the ride today to tell you the truth so to keep the ride up there would be a great thrill,’’ Bullock said.
“I knew from the time I first rode him he had that much improvement in him and he’s still improving.’’
Trainer David Atkins is no stranger to a smart horse having prepared the likes of Moss Rocket and he agrees with Bullock’s call that Jonker still has plenty of upside.
Jonker races away to win the Wyong Magic Millions Classic
He said Thursday’s win was an important stepping stone towards the Gold Coast classic but he still has to step up another rung.
“He could probably still improve a bit more,’’ Atkins said.
“They have to keep improving, he has great manners for a colt and doesn’t do a thing wrong. The 1200m there won’t worry him at all.’’
Atkins praised Bullock’s ride on Jonker, who did slip slightly at the start, saying his cool head was a major factor in getting the youngster home.
“The leader was free running, they weren’t trying to hold it back, and Aaron had a nice hold on him,’’ he said.
“He was always going to be hard to beat from there.’’