Drawn ideally in box 1, Poke The Bear jumped fairly and was crowded early by She’s A Mitzi from box 2, however the $1.10 favourite railed strongly to assume the lead through the first turn.
Recent group 1 winner Hasten Slowly followed him through to apply pressure entering the back straight, but Poke The Bear was too brilliant, racing to an emphatic four length victory in 29.15. It his 10th win from 11 starts from box 1.
“It would be nice if he could draw the red here every second week,” said handler Jason Thompson.
“I thought there was a chance he’d get a little crowded early but he rails so strongly, that’s the advantage of having the red box.
“I was really pleased with how he finished off tonight, Hasten Slowly is strong and coming off a group 1 win so to win the he did was a tremendous effort.”
Poke The Bear wins for the 10th time at Sandown Park in 2018
The win came just two days after his third birthday and has now won 33 of his 57 career starts and over $457,000 in prize money.
It was his final start of 2018, a remarkable calendar year that netted him 24 wins from 42 starts – 17 of which were in the best time of the night. He won 10 of his 19 starts at Sandown Park, breaking 29.25 on five occasions including the fastest time of the year and sixth fastest of all time (a scintillating 29.02) and claimed September’s Speed Star. He also won three group races at other tracks.
Poke The Bear is likely to kick off his 2019 campaign in the heats of the group 1 Paws Of Thunder at Wentworth Park on 12 January.
Earlier in the night, Thompson’s exciting youngster Bold came from last to win in an impressive 29.47. Last at the first turn, Bold railed well to move to second place off the back straight and despite spotting early leader Seaside Shuffle four lengths off the back, railed to win by half a length.
His run home time was faster than Poke The Bear’s brilliant 10.40.
“He showed a bit more pace when he started out. He trialled really fast at Sale but he’s just a bit slow early now.”
It was Bold’s fourth win from eight starts. He turns two in April 2019.
Sweet As Emm sweet as in 595m debut
Exciting staying prospect Sweet As Emm made a stunning debut over the middle distance impressively stepped up in distance to win race 6 in 33.94.
Meeting a high-class field including group 1 winners Barcali and Dyna Patty, the 21 month old daughter of My Bro Fabio was last at box rise but had worker her way into third place with a lap to go before sweeping past Go Seek Fernando to take the lead down the back and win by 3½ lengths.
Sweet As Emm had lacked early speed in her previous starts over 515m but found the line strongly on each occasion suggesting the extra 80m would suit, however trainer Brendan Pursell was hoping for an easier assignment for her 595m debut.
“I thought she was a bit stiff to come up against some pretty good types so early on, I thought she was a bit out of her grade,” he said.
“But I’m really happy with her. You never really know how they’ll go over more ground until they do it so it’s really pleasing when they do step up like that.”
Sweet As Emm has now won six off 11 career starts – all at Sandown Park – but Pursell is undecided as to where he’ll go next with his emerging star.
“We might go to the Meadows for a grade 5 over 600m, but we’ll just see what comes along.”
Sweey As Emm is brilliant on her 595m debut
Sweet As Emm completed a winning double for owner Noel Mugavin after her litter sister Grace Ali impressively won the night’s opening event in 29.
Click here for full results from last night’s meeting.