IT SAYS plenty about the progression of Just Folk that nearly every one of his starts this preparation has been a solid step up from the last.
That trend will continue at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate day when the Josh Julius-trained five-year-old faces by far his biggest test to date in the $300,000 Group 2 Crystal Mile.
For Just Folk, it will be his first attempt at Group level racing.
Far from daunted, Julius insists the in-form son of Magnus and the mare Fast Ruby has earned his shot following a pair of pleasing Listed race performances this month when second behind Justacanta in the Paris Lane Stakes (1410m) at Flemington and fifth in the $200,000 Seymour Cup (1600m) behind Mr Brightside.
He said Just Folk had not missed a beat in the build-up to today.
"He's his normal self ... jumping around coming home from the pool and bouncing off the track. I can't really fault him," Julius said.
"He galloped well on the course proper here at Bendigo on Wednesday morning. His work hasn't really changed all prep and has been the same leading into all his races.
"Obviously it's a step up into a Group 2, but it's probably not the most regal of Crystal Miles that have ever been run and that probably allows him to get a bit of a chance in it."
A crack at a Group 2 for Julius comes just a few days short of the anniversary of losing his emerging stayer Super Girl after she broke down in last year's Group 3 Bendigo Cup.
While thoughts often drift to the former mare and what might have been, Julius knows he's been fortunate to have unearthed another potential star capable of flying the stable flag in these big races.
"It's a massive achievement for us, a little stable having a crack," he said.
"We keep falling back to Super Girl and where she might have ended up and we kept saying we needed a horse in the stable to keep us in the limelight.
"We were pretty lucky to find him 12 months later.
"Whether you are a punter, or an owner, or a trainer or a jockey, this is the time of the year to get you up and about.
"And when you are driving down the freeway to participate in these races, it's a huge buzz.
"It's great to have a horse that's racing competitively and goes into these races as a live chance."
A winner of four of 14 starts for nearly $150,000 in prize money, Just Folk will be ridden for the first time by John Allen.
Julius admits there is some risk to his decision to run the gelding in the Crystal Mile.
The young trainer elected to bypass the benchmark 84 Rendr Handicap at Moonee Valley on Friday night, an easier race the gelding was second favourite for in early betting.
"I was mindful that Friday night would have been his first night meeting and he would have been in the last race and had drawn a pretty awkward barrier," he said.
"There was enough of a question mark over him at Moonee Valley as it is let alone drawing wide and not having the race run to suit.
"So we will trust him and trust his form on Saturday.
"He's drawn a good barrier and there looks to be good tempo in the race, and obviously Johnny Allen is a big tick.
"He's not in at the weights well with his rating, being a weight-for-age race, but he's a big strong bugger and has carried the weight before no dramas.
"He's earned his crack."
It's a massive achievement for us, a little stable having a crack.Josh Julius
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