For a self-confessed kid from the bush who relishes riding the Country Cups circuit, an opportunity in a $1 million race is a moment to treasure.
But don’t expect Aaron Bullock to make a habit of it.
The 30-year-old, who was born in Tumut but grew up in the Hunter Valley town of Singleton, is a country boy at heart.
After relocating to Newcastle six years ago to link up with trainer Kris Lees, Bullock has enjoyed great success on NSW’s second tier racing circuits.
He rides many of Lees’ best horses in trackwork but his forays to town are rare.
“I don’t get to the city much but I would rather it that way,” Bullock said.
“He supports me in all of the country and provincial areas and I’m very grateful for that.
“I would rather be where I am. I’m a bush man at heart and I love the bush racing.”
Bullock finds himself in a unique position on Saturday when he rides at his home track of Newcastle but competes for metropolitan prize money
He has been strongly supported with a good book, including the Richard Litt-trained Shaddy in the Group Three Spring Stakes (1600m) and debutant Baby Wong for Stephen Jones in the Max Lees Classic (900m).
But the jewel in the crown is the mount on the Lees-trained Special Reward in the $1 million The Hunter (1300m).
While Bullock has ridden the sprinter just once in a race, he has been his regular trackwork rider since the gelding arrived from Perth 12 months ago.
And that is no mean feat.
“He’s not the easiest horse to ride and not many like riding him so I get stuck with him,” Bullock said.
“I put up with him every morning.
“He’s been playing up at home and that’s when he races good. I’m hoping he can get back to his best.”
Special Reward failed to run the 1500m out strongly when fifth in the Cameron Handicap and over-raced in blinkers when he disappointed in the Sydney Stakes last start.
The blinkers come off on Saturday and Bullock is hoping that helps the horse turn his form around.
Not just to deliver him a significant win, but to reward the loyalty of connections.
“It would mean a lot. I know the original owners, who have still got a half-share, have really pushed for me to ride this horse,” Bullock said.
“Opportunities like this don’t come around often and just to make the most of it and get the job done would be great.”
Bullock is also upbeat about the chances of Shaddy, who he partnered to his maiden victory at Newcastle and a second at the same track last start.
“He’s going the right way and he can be very competitive,” Bullock said.