In-form Aaron Bullock in for a busy day at the office

Aaron Bullock will ride at Royal Randwick and Newcastle on Saturday. Photo: Scone Race Club.

Aaron Bullock will take rides at Royal Randwick and Newcastle on Saturday, with the state’s leading jockey thinking ahead to much larger targets later in the year. 

The popular hoop and reigning Australian champion will be in Sydney for the first three races, taking a ride on the Nick Mitchell-trained Adios Steve in the Benchmark 72 Midway Handicap (1000m) before jumping aboard the unbeaten Perennial for Paul Messara and Leah Gavranich in the Class Three Highway Handicap (1000m). 

He’ll then hop in the car and make his way up the M1 Pacific Motorway in a bid to ride the Kris Lees-trained Tavi Time in the $150,000 Provincial-Midway Championships qualifier (1400m).

“I’m excited to get on Perennial and Tavi Time; I reckon both are serious horses,” Bullock told NSW. Country and Picnic Racing

“It’s not often you get the chance to ride in Sydney and a really good horse at Newcastle in the Provincial Championships, so when the opportunity came up where I could do both, I jumped at it.”

His last race in Sydney is 1.40 pm ahead of the Newcastle qualifier at 5.40 pm, and Bullock admitted there would be some pressure when leaving Sydney.

“By the time I weigh out, have a quick shower, and throw stuff in the car, I want to be out of the track at 2 pm and driving into Newcastle just after 4 pm,” Bullock said. 

“Three weeks ago, I knew we were going to be doing both, so I’ve had a good think about it, and as long as I’m there 40 minutes before the race in Newcastle, it will be happy days.

“I’ll be feeling a bit of pressure, but as soon as I’m out of Sydney and the traffic, I’ll be fine.”

There are good reasons why Bullock is keen to ride these two talented gallopers, with Tavi Time qualified for the $3 million Big Dance after his win in last year’s Mudgee Cup.

At the same time, Perennial is being touted as a Kosciuszko contender. 

“Perennial is the real deal; it’s been a long time since I’ve jumped on a country horse as fast as him,” Bullock said. 

“He is one of those horses that can quicken off a good tempo and find a gear that other horses just don’t have. 

Bullock has ridden the Mikki Isle gelding to three wins from three starts, and they have all been over the 900m journey.

The three-year-old was too good for his rivals at Muswellbrook and Scone last year before a first-up win at Newcastle on February 3, where he put a good margin on the field in the Benchmark 64 Handicap.

“He really impressed me the other day over 900m,” Bullock said.

“He’s had five weeks between runs as Paul didn’t want to bugger up all the good work, and he’s just a sprinter and a very fast horse. 

“At Sydney, he’s drawn perfectly, and he gets every chance, and I reckon we’ll only see him for two or three more runs this prep, and then they will give him a break and get him ready for The Kosciuszko.”
It’s a stellar field of country gallopers, with Mack Griffith sending around speedster Compelling Truth (James McDonald, $4.80) and Brett Cavanough starting Once Again My Girl (Jason Collett, $3.50). 

Add in there the Stephen Jones-trained Remember Jack (Nash Rawiller, $12), the Scott Singleton-trained Outishka (Hay Ford, $9.50), the Marc Quinn-trained Bomarea (Mikayla Weir, $17), and the Ron Stubbs-trained Bridie’s Luck, and a lot of these horses will likely be set for The Kosciuszko later this year. 

“You would not get a better Class Three 1000m in the bush,” Bullock said. 

“It would be the strongest Highway I’ve seen, and the top six horses across the line on the weekend will be some of the first picked for the Kosciuszko. 

“It’s going to be a cracking race, and I will be watching a few bums going forward as they go hammer and tong up front, and it’s just up to me to pick the right bum to follow then present when given a chance.”

While Bullock is thrilled to be riding Perennial, a quick trip back to Newcastle was always on the card when he was offered the ride on Tavi Time.

A five-time winner from just eight starts, the four-year-old Tavistock gelding had tongues wagging in December when Bullock rode him to victory in the Mudgee Cup – the pair won by six and a half lengths. 

Already qualified for the $3 million Big Dance, Lees will have that in the back of his mind. Still, for the moment, the rich Provincial-Midway Championships qualifier on Saturday and the $1 million final at Royal Randwick on April 13 are the focus. 

“I’ve got a good association with the horse, having had two rides for two wins, and I’m stoked to get the chance to ride him at Newcastle,” Bullock said. 

“With Dylan (Gibbons) not being there, it means I’m the second option, but that’s fine by me, and it’s a huge opportunity.

“I’m very keen to ride him as he’s a very good horse, and he just does everything so easily; I’m looking forward to Saturday.”

Bullock, who leads the NSW jockey’s premiership on 91 wins at a 23.6% strike rate, has been in flying form.

He scored two trebles in three days earlier this month, dominating programs at Tamworth and Dubbo. 

On Sunday, he won the $150,000 Central Districts qualifier on the David Smith-trained Lockdown Gamble and rode four wins at the Mudgee meeting. 

He then landed wins at Newcastle on Monday and Scone on Tuesday, and Bullock said he was feeling good after a slower-than-usual start to the season. 

“To be truthful, I got on a bit of a slump for a little bit after I pushed that hard for the year, and with two snow trips, another trip to Airlie Beach for my birthday, and my honeymoon in November, I had to spend a bit of time to get myself right,” Bullock said.

“I remember saying to my wife (Amelia Bullock) a month ago, I’ve got the Country Champs coming up, so I need to spend a couple of weeks to get the body in check, and that meant good dieting and training, and I did that, and I’ve come back feeling as good as ever. 

“Plus, riding at that consistent 58kg helps me get a good book of rides and some nice horses, and that’s what has been happening.”