AFTER sitting out last winter with weight problems, Newcastle jockey Aaron Bullock said the prospect of cracking a century of winners was driving him to the finish line of a breakout season.
Bullock has 96 winners to sit seventh on the NSW jockeys’ premiership with a month remaining in the season. Before Friday’s racing, Bullock had the best winning strike-rate – 22.1 per cent – of the top 20 riders in NSW for 2017-18.
He is already well ahead of his best season, 2016-17, in which he had 55 winners in 61 less rides than this campaign, and he was eyeing triple figures.
“I’m not a big believer in setting goals, but setting the goal this year, it’s helped me get through winter, wanting to get to 100,” Bullock said.
“Not many jockeys do that in a season, so if I do, it will be another feather in the cap.”
Bullock heads to the Sunshine Coast on Saturday to ride Our Gravano and Dal Cielo for Newcastle trainer Kris Lees on the Caloundra Cup program and believes both are winning chances.
Our Gravano is in the benchmark 85 handicap (1600m) after back-to-back fifths in Sydney with Bullock. The five-year-old gelding was only 1.2 lengths away in the first effort. Dal Cielo was sixth in the listed June Stakes with Jeff Penza aboard last start and third at Randwick before that for Bullock.
“Our Gravano went real good for me first-up, then second-up he just got on to a track that was too heavy for him, so he’ll improve off that and he’ll go good tomorrow,” Bullock said. “He only has to produce his first-up run with me and he’ll be hard to beat.
“Dal Cielo is wasprobably the same. It got onto a track that was probably too heavy for him last start. The run before I was on him and he went really good, and back to a 1000 will suit him as well.
“He went up there first run this prep over 1050 and only just got beat. He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t fit enough, so going up there fourth-up, he will be ready and the fields up there aren’t as hard.”
Bullock served a 12-month suspension early in his career and he spent three years out of the sport, but he has fought back with the help of Lees.
“The season’s been good and I’ve had a lot of support from Kris, which has helped,” he said.
“In this game, you’ve just got to work hard and obviously success follows. You’ve just got to give it 100 per cent. There’s no in-betweens.
“Kris is one of the old school trainers – if you do the work, he gives you opportunities. He’s given me the opportunity to go up there and ride them and I’ve taken them with both hands. He’s good to me and I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”
At Rosehill, Lees will chase black-type wins with Nurse Kitchen and Doukhan in the Winter Cup and Danish Twist in the Civic Stakes.
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