John Allen drives Just Folk to victory in the Group 2 Schweppes Crystal Mile last Spring

Bendigo battlers Just and Julius in search of star status

By Ben Caluzzi

The only thing that would’ve made Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day in 2021 more special for Bendigo trainer Josh Julius is if he had been able to spend it with his family by his side. Unfortunately, just missing the cut-off The Valley was unable to host a crowd, but the memories of the day certainly weren’t lost on the 32-year-old trainer.

Just Folk, a son of Magnus who was bred by Julius’ grandparents saluted in the time-honored Group 2 Schweppes Crystal Mile. It was easily the biggest win of Julius’ training career, and it rubber stamped Just Folk as the stable star Julius had been searching for after his previous Group 1 hopeful Super Girl tragically broke down in the 2020 Bendigo Cup.      

“It was great (to win the Crystal Mile.) The only downside was Covid and not having all our family and friends there to celebrate with,” Julius said on Tuesday.

“It would’ve been huge to be able to sit up there in the members and have a beer with everyone celebrating, but nonetheless we’ll certainly take it.

“We obviously lost Super Girl a few Bendigo Cups which was very sad. She was a Melbourne Cup aspirant who was certainly putting our name up in lights, so for a small stable to have a pin up horse come around straight after Super Girl has been so important for our brand.”

Majority owned by Josh and his wife Kassie; Just Folk has already landed his dozen owners a hefty $371,938 in prizemoney – but the five-year-old gelding will be out for more riches when he steps out in Saturday’s $350,000 MA Services Group Australia Stakes at The Valley.

Resuming over 1200 metres and up against some slick types, Just Folk may find a few too sharp this weekend, but for Julius it’s all about seeing his tough gelding return well as he plots a course for his grand finals later in the campaign.

“I just want to see him return to racing in good order. Obviously we’ve never been in this sort of company first up so it’s different for us.

“With these good horses you sort of have to train them to dates rather than just get them fit, so we just want to see him return well in the Australia Stakes and hit the line full of running.”

Whilst the immediate kick-off point for Just Folk is this weekend at The Valley, the ultimate goal this preparation is to gain a start in the $5M All-Star Mile at Flemington on March 19. Just Folk was only beaten 1.5L in the Group 1 Cantala Stakes during the Spring and looks suited returning to 1600 metres on the big spacious track.

Just Folk currently sits 13th in the voting for the All-Star Mile, and with the top 10 automatically gaining entry into the race Julius is hoping fans will rally behind the country battler narrative.

“He’s nominated for the All-Star Mile, so we’d love to sneak into that field, get some votes and make that reality happen.

“We’re doing the usual social media rounds. We’re on the paper and in the news around Bendigo so we’re hoping we can get all the local country votes.

“I guess we’re just hoping that our story targets the hearts of a few people, and hopefully they’d love to see the country battler in there having a crack with the big boys for the big prizemoney.”

Just Folk is right on the premises of gaining automatic entry into the race, but all will not be lost if he is unable to secure his position via fan vote. The Group 2 Blamey Stakes has been circled by Julius as a target on February 26, a race which grants the winner ballot exemption into the All-Star Mile.

Voting for the All-Star Mile closes on February 13, but if Just Folk does fall outside of the top 10 then Julius anticipates that will only spur the five-year-old on even more.

“He doesn’t like losing. We really noticed last prep when he came home from Ballarat in the Seymour Cup (7th placed.)

“He had a tough run, but he tried very hard. He was really agitated when he came home.

“He’s a really competitive horse and he always tries his guts out.”

Whilst victory in the MA Services Group Australia Stakes may be a hard task for Just Folk this weekend, here’s hoping the Bendigo pair can not only win over the hearts of the nation but win their way into the All-Star Mile on March 19.