Bullock lands magical quintet and Tamworth qualifier win

Aaron Bullock gives a big roar when guiding the Paul Messara-trained Akasawa to victory in the 2023 Hunter and North West Country Championships qualifier at Tamworth on Sunday. Photo: Bradley Photos.

Aaron Bullock is considered by many pundits as one of the best jockeys in country NSW, and while he has achieved many great feats, the 32-year-old enjoyed one of his best ever days in the saddle at Tamworth on Sunday. 

Bullock won the $150,000 Hunter and North West Country Championships qualifier on the Paul Messara-trained Akasawa ($3.80), and if that wasn’t enough, he landed the second quintet of his career.

In a red-letter day for the Tumut product and Hunter Valley-based jockey, Bullock also won on the Paul Messara-trained Rematch ($3.50) in the 1200m Maiden Plate, and the Cody Morgan-trained trio of Lostma Cowboy ($5.50) in the 1400m Maiden Handicap, Russian Standard ($2.20) in the 1200m Benchmark 66 Handicap, and Broken Hill ($2.10) in the 1200m Class Two Handicap. 

Bullock has a winning-affinity with Akasawa, and he has now ridden him four times for three wins, and the five-year-old has complied a handy record of nine starts for six wins and two seconds, earning connections over $200,000 in prize money. 

In an ominous sign to Country Championship rivals, Bullock believes the best of Akasawa is yet to come after what was an impressive first-up effort when holding off the Jan Bowen-trained Running Bear (Ash Morgan, $4.60) by 0.53 of a length in the 1400m feature event.

“The job’s not done yet. When he’s at his best when I get off him, he’s never blowing and that’s the way he was today,” Bullock said when interviewed after the race.

“I knew being at this distance (and) around this track we had to be there. I had to ask him a couple of times to hold his spot, but I knew he was a fit horse; a good horse.

“If Paul can have him that way in the final, he will give it a mighty shake. He’s a good horse, his record suggests that.”

Messara said it was always the plan to have Bullock in the saddle, and while there were moments in the run, the Scone trainer was pleased with the win, hinting that the stars were aligning ahead of the rich country-only final.

“Everything was spot on, I spoke to Aaron very early on in this horse’s prep and said make sure you’re available and he was,’’ Messara said.

“The horse was probably a bit deeper than we thought early on but he got him to settle. He’s a very strong horse, he loves winning, he gives 110 per cent; when things get tough, he finds the line.

“The timing is perfect for this horse because he enjoys that stiff 1400m. He wants it well run because he could always go up in trip. 

“We had a short preparation, unconventional, but we had him well enough to perform and I think he will be better going into the Final.”

With the final a bit over a month away, Bullock will be hoping he gets the ride on Akasawa in the final, while Jan Bowen will have time to consider if Ash Morgan takes the ride on Running Bear when the pair take on the $500,000 Country Championship final at Royal Randwick on April 1. 

For Tamworth’s results click here. The next 2023 Country Championships qualifier is on the South East at Moruya on Sunday.