Topgun hero Poke The Bear claimed his second straight feature race victory at The Meadows with an epic last-stride verdict over Up Hill Jill in the Group 3 RSN 927 Silver Bullet (525m) on Melbourne Cup Eve.
Poke The Bear careered away with the Group 1 Topgun at the same venue on October 27; however it was a very different story in the $25,000 to-the-winner Silver Bullet where Seona Thompson’s powerhouse received an almighty scare from the gallant Up Hill Jill.
“He ran an enormous race,” said Darren Puleio, who bred and races Poke The Bear in partnership with his father Michael.
“He didn’t get it his own way at all tonight, but throughout the run I kept thinking that Up Hill Jill isn’t as strong as she used to be and Poke The Bear is racing so well at the moment.”
Drawn in box six, as was also the case in the Topgun, Poke The Bear started $2.60 favourite in the Silver Bullet, ahead of Angela Langton’s Topgun runner-up Hasten Slowly, the $3.70 second elect from an ideal rails draw.
Despite leading and holding on for third in the Topgun, Up Hill Jill was a $17.40 outsider from box five, but the veteran belied her quote to once again spear to the front and she proceeded to open up a huge lead with her catch me if you can tactics.
Poke The Bear charged into second approaching the home turn but looked to be in trouble when he checked off Up Hill Jill’s heels half-way up the home straight, before picking himself up like the superstar he is to blouse Up Hill Jill, scoring by .06 in 29.87sec.
“He has now won a Group 1 (Topgun), a Group 2 (Traralgon Cup) and a Group 3 (Silver Bullet) from box six,” Puleio said.
“Everyone tells me he prefers the inside, but I’m not so sure. I actually hope he draws box six in his Melbourne Cup heat.”
Remarkably, it was the Thompson kennel’s fourth consecutive Silver Bullet success, having previously won the Melbourne Cup lead-up courtesy of Dalgetty (2015), Aston Bolero (2016) and Bewildering (2017), with Up Hill Jill having also finished runner-up last year.
Poke The Bear has now won 29 of his 50 starts and seven of his last nine and it’s no surprise that he sits atop TAB’s Melbourne Cup market at $10, alongside boom kennelmate Black Opium.
“It’s so exciting having a dog that is one of the favourites for the Melbourne Cup,” Puleio said.
“For dad and I as owners and breeders it’s the pinnacle. You always need luck, especially in a series like the Melbourne Cup, but he’s racing as well as any dog going around right now.”
* Compiled by Gerard Guthrie and Andrew Copley. Photos by Clint Anderson.