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Darc Bounty gives Gray 600th win
Michael Lee

That 600th winner had been eluding trainer Stephen Gray since The Dodger on December 4, but the long wait was finally over on Monday when Darc Bounty handed the milestone in emphatic style.


With Gray away at the Karaka sale in his native New Zealand, assistant-trainer Peter Hutton was there to lead in that much-needed ice-breaker – their 38th runner since The Dodger – and the one to echo the yard’s relief.


The former English jockey said that chase was more psychological than anything. 

Darc Bounty (Vlad Duric) makes winning look easy at his maiden win on Monday.

“It’s in the head. The more we want to reach that figure, the harder it is,” said Hutton, a former assistant-trainer to US legends Bob Baffert and Wayne Lukas.


“I remember it took me 109 rides to finally hit 500 winners when I was a jockey. I finally got it done at Churchill Downs.”


A losing sequence of 38 starts is not as bad, but Hutton still felt it did not do justice to Gray’s horses.


“We’ve had six seconds this year, which goes to show the horses were doing well,” said Hutton.


“It’s just that they found one better. But this horse (Darc Bounty) was very impressive at his first run for us.”


After two runs for trainer Leslie Khoo including a debut second last June, the Darci Brahma three-year-old was moved to Gray’s yard. The preliminary assessment was encouraging but with a few kinks to be ironed out.


“He showed a lot of talent but he was a bit hotheaded. It’s only in the last three to four weeks that he started to come together,” said Hutton.


“He was a lot more professional and he showed that today. Credit to Vlad Duric as he’s the one who insisted on running him over 1000m.


“Steve and him have been debating whether to run him over 1000m or 1200m, but looking at the way he won today, he would have won over 1200m, too.”


Taking a sit behind speed merchant Grey Falcon (Nooresh Juglall) in the $75,000 Good Health Stakes, a Restricted Maiden race over 1000m, Darc Bounty bided his time before asserting his superiority in a few bounds upon straightening, careering away to a seven-length win from Grey Falcon with My Horse (Olivier Placais) third another length away.


The winning time was 59.22 seconds for the 1000m on the Polytrack.


Duric, who has enjoyed a lot of support from Gray going back to his earlier Kranji years in the 2010s, was glad he was the one to break the duck for the Kiwi handler.


“Steve’s been a wonderful supporter of mine for many years. He’s had some tough times this year, but the horses were running very well,” said the Australian jockey.


“He got his first win with a nice promising horse. He showed he was a good galloper with a nice turn of foot.


“We were deciding whether to run him over 1000m or on grass over 1200m. In the end, we went with the 1000m and that’s why we put the crossover noseband and the hood on, just to settle him better.


“But he’s a real runner and he will get 1200m as well, no problem.”


Raced by the Elaine Chen Stable, Darc Bounty returned a dividend of $16 for a $5 outlay.