Aaron Clarke claims hometown cup with Bon Frankie

Richard Bensley guides the Aaron Clarke-trained Bon Frankie to victory on Saturday’s 2023 Braidwood Cup. Photo: Lance Fearne.

It was a hometown win in Saturday’s Braidwood Cup, with the Aaron Clarke-trained Bon Frankie proving too strong for his rivals.

The four-year-old was ridden by Richard Bensley and started a $5.50 chance in the $22,000 feature, and he flashed late to win comfortably from the Norm Gardner-trained Keep It Down (Rochelle Wedrat Kroezen, $5.50) in second and the Darryl Rolfe-trained Final Showdown (Jess Del Frari, $6.50).

Clarke said it was always the plan to get back and run home over the 1350m journey, and he never had a doubt as Bon Frankie won by more than two lengths. 

“He was sitting back second or third last, and if you watch the replay, he looks like he was never going to get beat,” Clarke said.  

“That one of Gratz Vella’s (Romeo Vella) led and Joe Cleary’s (Pink Panther) was up there too, but (Bon) Frankie has got enough speed to get himself in trouble when he draws wide, so we figured we’d find a spot back a bit, and run him home strongly, which he did pretty well.”

Clarke has trained some nice horses over the years, but he put his second Braidwood Cup victory up there as one of his most treasured wins. 

“That’s the second we’ve won. A few others have run a few placings, and Failed Approach won in 2015,” Clarke said. 

“He (Failed Approach) was a pretty handy horse, and he won a Wellington Cup and heap of nice races.

“It’s good to win the Braidwood Cup; we’ve won Highways, a $100,000 Wellington Cup, and other country cups, but that first Braidwood Cup is the best race I’ve ever won, and it’s always good and some fun to win at home.”

A good crowd got out for the Braidwood Cup program, and Clarke believes it was a good day for racing and punting. 

“They had a good crowd, and close to a thousand people were there,” Clarke said. 

“It was a bit windy, but it was good that it wasn’t too hot, and it was only 23 or so degrees, so it was good weather to be hanging around the bar and having bet.”

As far as Bon Frankie’s next target, Clarke is tinkering with a plan to tackle the 1400m Class Three Highway Handicap at Rosehill Gardens on February 18 before setting him for the $150,000 South East Country Championships qualifier at Moruya on March 5. 

“He’s always shown us that he has ability, and he’s always sort of raced a bit green, but now he is working it all out,” Clarke said.

“This time in, he’s going good with his jump outs, and he should have a bit of improvement in him being that was his first-up run this prep. 

“Hopefully he keeps improving. We will probably take him to a Highway in two weeks’ time and then maybe the Country Championships, but he would have to win that Highway or at Bega to get a start, but he’ll be borderline, so we’ll see what happens.”

For all results out of the Braidwood meeting, click here