On 19 January 1994, a gelding named Bullwinkle by US sire Bellotto and out of a mare named Pintaj won a maiden at Cranbourne by four lengths. By the end of his 1st preparation, the gelding had won five from eight and he culminated his preparation with a narrow win in the Group 1 South Australian Derby. Patrick Payne rode this 1st Group 1 winner for Eric Musgrove way back on the Saturday after the 1994 May Racing Carnival at Warrnambool. Who would have thought that twenty or so years later, Eric and Patrick would be competitors with both having shared many great jumps wins over the last three years.
1st up after winning the SA Derby in the autumn, Bullwinkle finished 2nd behind eventual Caulfield Cup winner and Melbourne Cup runner-up Paris Lane in an open handicap over 1400m. By the end of this, Bulwinkle’s 2nd preparation, the gelding would have run a credible race in the Caulfield Cup before dominating the Group 2 Queen Elizabeth on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington. Eric seems to have set this gelding for wins at the end of his campaign in major races knowing that the horse got better with more racing. The honour roll for the Queen Elizabeth at Flemington contains most of the best stayers Australia has ever seen as well as some champion WFA horses. The race has been won by the likes of Might And Power, Gunsynd, Galilee. Redcraze and Rising Fast, and of course Bullwinkle!
The following autumn, Bullwinkle was an autumn four-year-old and he again had a big preparation of seven races. And like he had the previous year in 1994, the gelding won a major race in what was his last start of the prep. This time the race was the Adelaide St Leger, a race that was run and won every year from 1862 (year after the 1st Melbourne Cup) up until 2005. It is simply amazing that Bullwinkle, a stayer in every sense of the word, was able to be competitive with the best of the best, but more than that, was able to win major races at the last run of his first three campaigns.
And just for good measure, four years later, Bullwinkle won two hurdle races in grand style. Overall, the gelding had 76 starts and was in the money on 30 occasions. He banked over half a million dollars for his connection and he will always be remembered as Eric’s 1st Group 1 winner. With Bullwinkle, Eric showed what can be done with a stayer that is being set for one race per preparation. Yes it is great if you win a race on the way to the Grand Final, but the key with a stayer is to have them ready for one big performance per preparation. Eric managed to do this three preparations in a row with Bullwinkle in what was a wonderful display of training.