It hasn’t surprised jockey Aaron Bullock to see Cepheus go forward in leaps and bounds in the three months since he last partnered the gelding and he hopes to keep the ball rolling at Randwick on Saturday.
Bullock guided the seven-year-old to a win in the South Grafton Cup back in July, securing his eligibility for the $3m Big Dance, and with Nash Rawiller interstate they reunite for the Robrick Lodge Filante Handicap (1600m).
After wins in the Group 2 Shannon Stakes (1500m) and the $1m Alan Brown Stakes (1400m), Saturday will be Cepheus’ final lead up to the Big Dance and Bullock is more than happy to position himself as understudy.
“I’m keen to get back on him, I’ve seen what he’s done this preparation and he looks to be going even better,’’ Bullock, coming off five winners from six rides at Scone this week, said.
“He got the job done at Grafton knowing he came into it not off an ideal preparation and I felt off that he could get better as long as he stood up.
“But this preparation they’ve got the horse flying, I feel the horse can only get better going into the Big Dance.”
The Matthew Dunn-trained galloper carried 62kg to win the South Grafton Cup and with 61kg on Saturday he will again be conceding up to 9kg to his rivals.
Bullock said Cepheus is a big, strong, horse with a hefty will to win and for whatever reason, especially while in career best form, weights don’t seem to be bothering him.
He gave Cotehele 4.5kg in winning at Grafton and when the two horses met in the Alan Brown he conceded 6kg and the result was the same.
“He’s a good horse, he’s got a little bit of weight but he’s very deserving of it,’’ he said.
“You can quantify how well he’s come back by just adding up the weight spreads.
“He’s tough, he’s just got that will to win. When they interviewed Nash after his last win he more or less said what I thought when I got off at Grafton.
“I thought this horse just knows how to win. He just sticks his head out. He wears blinkers but he can still feel the horse around him and always finds that bit extra to win.
“That contributes to him being able to carry weight.”
Cepheus, $3.20 favourite with TAB on Wednesday and current $4.50 elect for the Big Dance, has again found favour with the barrier draw jumping from gate five and Bullock said that’s a big help when it comes to running out the mile successfully.
That might seem strange for a horse who, in another life, won at 2500m overseas but since he’s been with Dunn he’s been most effective between 1400m and 1600m.
“I’m happy he’s drawn a good gate, he’s a horse that can want to overdo it a bit so from the good draw we can do no work,’’ he said.
“You saw him wanting to truck a little bit with Nash over 1400m last start and I believe at the mile he can be his own worst enemy. Being fourth up, though, I reckon he’d be mickey mouse.”
If the Promitto that Bullock rode in his trial win prior to his first-up run happened to turn up in the TAB Handicap (1200m) on Saturday he could be a surprise packet.
The gelding has been out of the winner’s stall since he won his first two starts, including the Group 2 Skyline Stakes in February last year, on wet tracks and his only other placing was also on soft ground.
It’s been a month since Promitto’s first-up run where he was beaten five lengths by Kibou over the Randwick 1200m.
“He promised a lot early days but he seems to have lost his way a bit,’’ he said.
“I trialled him at the start of his prep and I thought his trial was good.
“He’s a horse that’s better when he can get his toe into the ground but he’s fit and well and would want to be showing something on the weekend.”
– Racing NSW