STAR Bendigo galloper Just Folk has won another big tick of approval from his trainer following an ultra-competitive performance in Saturday's Group 1 C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield.
The five-year-old gelding finished seventh in only his second attempt at a Group 1 race, finishing just three lengths from the winner, the Michael Moroney-trained Tofane.
It was an effort that has thrilled trainer Josh Julius and filled him with plenty of cheer ahead of his Group 2 winner's likely next assignment in the $300,000 Group 2 Blamey Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on March 5.
The Blamey comes with an extra lure, with the winner granted automatic entry into the $5million All-Star Mile at Flemington on March 19.
Entry to the world's richest mile race can be obtained by any of a top-10 finish in the public vote, a wildcard, or by winning either of the Blamey Stakes or this Saturday's Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield.
Julius said Just Folk would be nominated for the Futurity Stakes, but his preference was to better space Just Folk's runs.
The young trainer could not hide his delight with Saturday's performance in the Orr Stakes.
"We were thrilled, he's shown he is going to be competitive at Group 1 level and at weight-for-age," Julius said.
"That was always going to be the question mark, whether he could perform at weight-for-age.
"We'd obviously seen him win a weight-for-age at Group 2 level last year and compete in handicap level Group 1, but for him to return this prep in a couple of weight-for-age runs and certainly not look out of place is really encouraging for us going forward.
"Not just immediately for the autumn, but long-term for the rest of his career."
Much like his last preparation when Just Folk won the Group 2 Crystal Mile at Flemington at his eighth start into the campaign, Julius is getting a sense of the gelding building towards something big.
"I hope to think so. He's a very gross doing horse, he always takes a run or two to really clean up and reach peak fitness," he said.
"He only went to the races this prep off the one trial, so arguably he has still got improvement in him.
"And looking at him in the yard on Saturday, I do think there is improvement in him.
"Hopefully we can keep the city progression that we are making and he can be pretty close at the finish of one of these big races again in the not too distant future."
The Blamey Stakes looms as the logical next race for Just Folk for more than just one reason.
Julius insists the wide-expanses of Flemington is where the son of Magnus and Fast Ruby is clearly best suited.
"You could just see late on Saturday he sort of just wobbles around Caulfield a little bit around the corner and is taking a little bit of time to balance up," he said.
"The benefit of being at Flemington is obviously having that whole big straight to balance up and run straight.
"A couple of those things he does wrong on those tighter tracks he gets away with at Flemington.
"Flemington is certainly his track and we know he is ready for the mile now.
"It will still be a very hot race for a Group 2 with a lot of horses that are looking for one of those final spots in the All-Star Mile, and a lot of horses that might have been well out of contention in the voting period but are fit and well and truly able to win a race like that to sneak into the big one.
"But we are well and truly on the path to being super-competitive in the Blamey."
Last Saturday's seventh-place finish earned connections $15,000, with Just Folk's career prizemoney now standing at $393,938 from 18 starts.
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