The Braidwood Cup isn’t generally a race you’ll see in metropolitan form guides.
However, that didn’t stop the Aaron Clarke-trained Bon Frankie from winning Saturday’s Class Three Highway Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens.
With apprentice Tyler Schiller in the saddle, he left no stone unturned as the pair flashed strongly to claim an impressive victory in the $120,000 country-restricted event.
Starting the $5.50 second favourite, the Braidwood galloper beat home the Marc Quinn-trained Agirlsbestfriend (Jenny Duggan, $14) by threequarters-of-a-length while in third and nearly a length back was the Colt Prosser-trained Cenotes (Kerrin McEvoy, $21).
“It was bloody super,” Clarke told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“Tyler is a good young fella and a good jockey that gives them every chance.
“They were a little bit slow out of the gates, but he looked like he was travelling, and when Tyler got him out into the clear when he needed to, they won well.’
Bon Frankie nearly missed out on the opportunity to win a Highway, with the five-year-old Bon Hoffa gelding running an excellent race to finish second at Moruya on January 8.
That hard-luck finish was a blessing in disguise because if he had won at Moruya, he would not have been eligible for the Rosehill Highway, meaning Clarke and connections wouldn’t be celebrating their rich win.
“To be honest, we went to Moruya hoping to win, and looking back at it now, we’re lucky he didn’t win so he could go the Highway,” Clarke laughed.
“He ran a really good second there and probably should have won, but we went to town, drew a perfect gate, got a good ride, and it was a super result.”
When asked about Bon Frankie and his ever-consistent nature (16:4-3-2), Clarke explained he had grown into a good horse,
“I think he’s just improved the whole time,” Clarke said.
“He is pretty good now that he is a bit older. Early on, he was a big kid and a smart-arse and would carry on, but now he’s learned to do what he does.
“He always tries, and you only have to look at his runs to see that; whenever we take him to the races, he goes well.
“Going to the Braidwood Cup when he was a bit younger, I think it was more about winning the hometown cup at the time, but I always thought he was good enough to win a Highway or something better, and it was just a matter of time.”
With the 2024 Braidwood Cup only just around the corner on February 10, Clarke joked that Bon Frankie wouldn’t be able to defend his title, with connections eyeing a much bigger prize.
“They’ve already told me they won’t let me take him to the cup this year,” Clarke laughed.
“In all seriousness, we’ll try and get him into the Country Championships.
“As I said before the race, if there was going to be a realistic chance of heading that way, he needed to win or go close to winning today (Saturday)
“You’ve got to have your benchmark up around 70 to get a run, and we were way down in the ballot last year, and he missed out, but we should get a shot this year.”
With the South East qualifier scheduled to be held at Moruya on Sunday, March 3, ahead of the $1 million final at Royal Randwick on Saturday, April 6, Clarke has a tentative plan in place.
“We were only just talking about our plans and how he goes better fresh,” Clarke said,
“There is a TAB Federal in three weeks over 1300m, and we might head that way, which takes us three weeks into the qualifier.
“That’s the plan for now, but we’ll see how he pulls up and go from there.”
Clarke and his in-form stable will trek to Queanbeyan on Tuesday, and they have a couple of live chances in Artie Bee and Red Redemption.
Artie Bee has won his past three at Adaminaby, Albury, and Queanbeyan, and with young Jade McKenzie in the saddle, the five-year-old will be out to make it four wins on the trot in the Benchmark 58 Handicap (1000m).
Red Redemption has placed his past four at Queanbeyan, and Jack Martin goes aboard in the Country Boosted Maiden Plate (1600m).
“It’s amazing how the wheel turns,” Clarke said.
“You can have all the right horses, but things go wrong, and you can’t win a race, and then it changes, and it feels like you can’t not win a race, and I just hope the wheel stays turned my way for a little while longer.”