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Surprise Bullet aims at Spring Champion

Barry Lockwood has no problem identifying the last time he had a competitive stayer.

The Brisbane trainer quickly nominated Algonquin Club as the horse he hoped Surprise Bullet would eventually emulate.

“That’s the only other stayer I’ve had,” Lockwood said.

A long-term foreman for Brian Smith during the 1980s, Lockwood took over handling Algonquin Club, who won the Group Three Colin Stephen Quality (2400m) and Listed Canberra Cup (2400m) in 1987.

Lockwood trained in Sydney during the 1980s and 1990s and has rarely brought a runner south since, so he is confident Surprise Bullet will justify his start in the Group One Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on Saturday.

“He’s an improving horse and if he doesn’t make it on this occasion, he’ll certainly make it later in the year,” Lockwood said.

“If he fails it’ll still be a great education for him.”

The colt is five races into his first preparation and is tasked with stepping up considerably in class from his last-start maiden win at the Gold Coast on September 20.

He will be ridden by three-time Sydney premiership winner Larry Cassidy who now lives in Queensland and has been aboard Surprise Bulllet in his past three starts.

Surprise Bullet was a $23 chance in the 10-horse field with the TAB on Friday and Lockwood said his odds were about right.

“It’s very hard with the grade he’s been racing against to say you’d expect more because he’s only beaten maiden company,” he said.

“If he could finish at least midfield that would be good enough for me. I know he’s got plenty of scope for improvement.

“I’ve never had a good staying colt but he’s just a very strong, sound good mannered type.”

Since markets opened, Ace High has been the favourite to give former South African champion trainer David Payne his first Group One win since Criterion’s 2014 Australian Derby (2400m).

A Spring Champion victory would also be a first Group One win for Payne in conjunction with his long-time client John Cordina.

Godolphin is represented by Sanctioned, the $4.60 second elect, and Astoria $7.50.

Sully ($8) also makes the trip from interstate with his Cranbourne-based co-trainer Trent Busuttin hopeful the addition of blinkers will allow the gelding to improve on his fourth in the Group Three Gloaming Stakes won by Ace High from Sanctioned.

“We’ve got a bit of a margin to bridge after the Gloaming. It’s (blinkers) something we’ve thought about in the past with the horse being a bit erratic,” he said.

“They go on to see if he can be a bit more switched on.”

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