3 December 2016

JEFF Lloyd ominously predicted Winning Rupert “had a bit up the sleeve” winning first-up at Eagle Farm as the Bjorn Baker-trained colt took a giant stride towards claiming the lucrative Summer Crown.

Baker has specifically set the unbeaten Winning Rupert for a tilt at the Queensland summer, where if a horse can win three out of four races in a designated series, a $500,000 bonus awaits.

You can’t see any of Sunday’s rivals troubling Winning Rupert, who had nearly six lengths to spare — eased down — over Crack Me Up in a course record-breaking 1min 9.42sec, off the back off a sizzling 33.71sec final sectional.

“I was trying to give him as easy a race as possible, but I gave him a little squeeze and he responded nicely,” Lloyd said.

“He has come on as we expected he would this season. As a two-year-old, he did a lot of things wrong in his races. “Today he ran through the first furlong and a half (300m), but then came back to me nicely. “He had a little bit more up the sleeve.”

Baker, who watched the race from Sydney, said a virus that went through his stable was the reason Winning Rupert ended up in Queensland, as opposed to tackling the Golden Rose.

“He got crook and though it was unfortunate at the time, it might turn out to be a blessing,” Baker said.

“We had already decided to go to the Magic Millions and then it was fortuitous to us when Racing Queensland announced the UBET Summer Crown. “Suddenly, that becomes a really live option. “He’s the quickest horse I’ve had anything to do with and he does it effortlessly. “It’s not easy to win first-up 1200m at Eagle Farm and that’s why we gave him the three trials, but to think he’s run a track record is staggering.”

Like Lloyd, Baker has long admired Winning Rupert for what he achieved as a two-year-old.

“I remember saying in the winter that what he did was quite outstanding,” he said.

“To go to the Sunshine Coast and then back to Sydney and back north again to Doomben wasn’t easy. He was coming to the end of it by the Champagne, yet he still won. Everything since has been outstanding.”

Source: Nathan Exelby, Courier Mail