THE Mack Griffith-trained Pera Pera has confirmed himself as a contender for the Country Championship crown after taking out the Central Districts Qualifier (1400m) at Wellington on Sunday.
Pera Pera entered the $100,00 event race as favourite and he didn't let the wide draw trouble him as jockey Aaron Bullock immediately got towards the front and then showed all his class down the home straight as he went on to win by one-and-a-third lengths.
Fellow Mudgee trainer Cameron Crockett will also head to Randwick for the $400,000 final next month after Iron Blue, who only got a start following Great Choice's scratching, finished second.
Pera Pera has now recorded five wins from 11 starts but while impressed with his run, Griffith wasn't getting to excited over his chances at Randwick when speaking in the post-race interviews.
"We won't get too carried away, he's won a Class 2 and he'll go well but he's up against some very good horses," he said.
"He deserves a spot but he'll find it hard. He's on the up and up and might surprise some people."
Bullock was thrilled after the race, describing Pera Pera as his favourite horse to ride.
"He's a super horse, I love riding him," he said.
"I've ridden him four times for four wins and he's always got things up against him, wide draws and heavy weight but the handicappers haven't got him yet.
"He's a competitive horse and just loves it."
Bullock jumped brilliantly from barrier 12 and immediately settled in behind Apistanna ($15) while the also fancied Heza Thief ($3.50) and Canny Winsome ($13) settled in behind.
The order remained the same for much of the journey but once they hit the straight and Bullock gave the order Pera Pera ($2.40) responded and marched ahead.
"Aaron has ridden him four times for four winners, he's a really good jockey and underrated," Griffith said.
"When you get a good horse with a good jockey it's a good combination.
The journey was never the trouble, just the course but Aaron rode him really well."
Iron Blue was another who produced an eye-catching run as he made up plenty of ground to finish second. Heza Thief just missed out on the chance to run in the final by finishing third.
Iron Blue trainer Crockett was ecstatic to get the chance to run at Randwick on April 2 but he and many others in attendance were left in awe of Pera Pera.
"He's class," Crockett said of the winner.
"It will be good to take him (Iron Blue) to the final and I'm not sure how he'll go but he (Pera Pera) will go close."