BIG BAD BRUCE made it two wins in as many days for the Triple Crown team with a last gasp victory at Newcastle on Tuesday.
The son of Not A Single Doubt came from the clouds under a superb Rory Hutchings ride to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, having been near enough last as the field straightened up for home.
Big Bad Bruce has been a model of consistency since joining Joe Pride, placing in all seven starts, while yesterday’s victory marked his second in the care of the Warwick Farm trainer.
“He’s always shown glimpses of his ability, but I thought today was the best performance of his career,” Pride said.
“He’s now won a couple for us and all his other performances have been honest, so he’s a horse paying his way.
“The Autumn Carnival is winding up now so it’s the right time of year to bring him to town for a midweek race, and even he can run a mile that will add another strong to his bow.
“There’s a little term I like to use in racing and it’s ‘pay the believers’ – that’s us today. We’ve come a long way with this horse and now hopefully he’s going to reward us.
“He was terrific today and I’m really proud of him.”
Bruce’s success came just 24 hours after RANGES broke through for a well-deserved win at Muswellbrook, where he proved a touch too classy for his opposition and won with an air of authority.
The son of Shooting To Win travelled in the ideal position, with Jeff Penza electing to sit just off the pace set by the eventual runner-up Tough Case. Ranges then let down strongly in the straight, seeing out the 1280m trip with aplomb to score by just over a length.
A delighted winning co-trainer Peter Snowden said: “It took a fair bit longer to win a race with him than I thought it would, but that’s a start in the right direction and hopefully he can go on from here.
“That wasn’t his preferred ground, he’s definitely better on top of the ground, but he got through it OK and had a bit on them, so he was able to win nicely.
“Let’s hope it’s the start of many more to come.”
There will only be one real surprise when the TJ Smith field rockets from the barriers on Saturday. Dual Everest winner Redzel will be in the firing line again, but the shock is he will be considered an outsider.
There will be plenty of familiarity as Australia’s best sprinters meet; even with the golden generation of three-year-olds joining the fray, there will be a pattern to Saturday’s race.
Champion jockey Kerrin McEvoy is confident his partner in these races for the past three years can still match it with the best, even though the market is starting to lose faith in Redzel.
“You used to keep an eye on Nature Strip to see if he would come out, but he does that these days, so everyone knows where they are going to be,” McEvoy said.
“They have met so many times now that we all know what to expect and what we need to do to be successful. For Redzel, he looks like he will get the sort of track he likes and I think he is looking for the 1200m after a couple of good seconds at the 1000m.
“Even though he hasn’t won this time in he is going as well as ever and I think he can run a big race on Saturday.”
Redzel has been runner-up in the Lightning Stakes and the Challenge Stakes, where Nature Strip was supreme in a show of controlled speed. It might not be like that on Saturday with more pressure likely to come from Vegadaze and White Moss, which are newcomers to group 1 sprinting.
“I think we’ll get a good run [behind them],” McEvoy said. “Redzel was good late in the Challenge after we had some trouble getting clear at the top of the straight. He finished it off well.
“He is getting on [in years], but he feels good and he is going better now than 12 months ago.”
It will be Redzel’s third TJ Smith. He finished a weakening sixth behind Santa Ana Lane last year, but his 2020 form has mirrored that of two years ago when he was runner-up to Trapeze Artist.
He was runner-up in the Lightning Stakes and Challenge Stakes in 2018 and the market might be underestimating the grand old sprinter.
Bookies have Nature Strip as a $3.60 favourite with Bivouac, Santa Ana Lane, Loving Gaby and Pierata all under the $10 mark. Redzel is $18, which is a good price for a three-time winner over the Randwick 1200m.
By Chris Roots, Sydney Morning Herald