HOT on the heels of a terrific finish to 2019-20, Bendigo trainer Josh Julius has hit the ground running in the new racing season.
The 31-year-old has saddled up two winners from his first three starters in the early part of August
It's a stark contrast to last season for Julius, who took until November to notch his first winner, before going on to produce nine, together with some high-profile placings, including a third in the Listed Andrew Ramsden Stakes at Flemington in May with the emerging stayer Super Girl.
After ending last season with three winners from his last nine runners, the young trainer said he was keen to capitalise on the momentum.
"It helps when you have good stock in the stable and horses in form. Hopefully we can keep the season consistent and keep the winners coming," he said.
Win number two for the season arrived last Sunday at Bendigo via the ultra-promising three-year-old Just Folk, who extended his early career record to two wins from three starts, with an impressive benchmark 64 win over 1400m.
Underlining his versatility, the four-year-old gelding settled in front and was never headed despite a spirited challenge from Prince Of Helena.
The son of Group 1-winner Magnus' second win could not have been more different to his first, when he charged down the straight at Echuca after being in last place when rounding the home turn.
Julius was thrilled with the show of versatility.
"He's a pretty impressive horse, but he's a lot of raw ability at the moment and still figuring out his craft," he said.
"While he's doing what he's doing, winning races in the fashion he is and while he's still learning the caper, it's very exciting.
"I still think he's a long way off mentally from where he is going to be at the end of his career.
"But while the penny's dropping and he's winning races, it's very easy to get excited about him going forward.
"Physically, he's a big imposing animal, but mentally he's been a bit slow on the uptake and has always had to do things a few times to realise what he's doing.
"Going through COVID, we've been a bit dictated to as far as how much education we can get into him away from home.
"When he went to Echuca, that was actually his first trip away from home that wasn't going to the spelling paddock or coming back to work. He hadn't trialed, or hadn't galloped anywhere other than Bendigo.
"So, it was very new for him and he raced accordingly. He popped out the back and didn't have much of an idea.
"And then again at Sandown, the huge step up in grade from a country maiden at Echuca to a midweek benchmark 64 in the city, with a bit more natural tempo, he did the same thing, but he tacked on and hit the line pretty hard.
"I think the factor of being at his home track and starting to realise he's actually a racehorse, got him pretty geed up at Bendigo on Sunday.
"It told me he was switched on and ready to go. Accordingly, he jumped a lot better and put himself in the race."
A breakout season has Julius hot in contention for honours at the Bendigo Trainers' Association 2019-20 horse of the year awards, to be announced this week.
Super Girl, who won two races and was placed in the Listed Ramsden Stakes at Flemington and finished fourth in the Listed Warrnambool Cup, is a short-priced favourite to claim the stayers' crown, while the grey filly Piscatorial is a leading contender for the two-year-old award.
Julius conceded the horse of the year award was again destined for Shaun Dwyer and Miss Leonidas for the second-straight season, but hoped Super Girl's time was fast-approaching.
"Miss Leonidas has done what's she's done and has the runs on the board, but hopefully this year is Super Girl's year," he said.
"She seems to have come back in as good a fashion as she went out and is ready to trial and we are about to pencil in her first race.
"Hopefully, fingers crossed, all the stars align and we can land ourselves the dream come true of running in a Melbourne Cup."
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