The Group 2 Ladbrokes Cyril Rowe Bulli Gold Cup was first run as a Group 2 feature race in 2015 but before that it was a Group 3 event that commenced in 1996.
The race has always attracted some fine one turn sprinters and is always a competitive event. Perhaps that was why it took until 2020 for the race to provide its first back-to-back winner.
The Freight Train, Pindari Express, took out the Group 2 feature in 2019, giving her trainer Tracey Scruse – who had just one dog in her kennel at Chifley, in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs – her first ever Group victory.
A year on and the Train arrived in time again to win another Bulli Gold Cup, his final race before Scruse announced the star sprinter was being retired to stud.
The 2021 edition provided an outstanding final field, with the main chances being the fastest qualifier Barcia Blue Boy, the speedy Poppy Jack, and Ad Astra, whose brother Wow had won a Group 1 in Melbourne just the week prior.
The dash from boxrise was going to be vital, and after a spirited duel between that trio, it was Barcia Blue Boy who got to the rail first and shot away, opening up a break, and one which would not be overhauled.
Trainer Peter Lagogiane declared the dog one of the fastest he had ever trained with another sub-26s performance in winning the $40,000 to the winner Group 2 final.
In 2022, Castle Warrior caused a boil over when he took out the Group 2 feature ahead of raging hot race favourite and Group 1 winner Wow.
All eyes were on Wow when the field headed to the boxes despite Jason Magri's Zipping Conway being the fastest heat winner.
A favourable box draw and big race experience meant many expected the big white and brindle dog to add another Group feature race to his resume, but it was Castle Warrior who spoiled the party.
The Mark Wilcox-trained chaser wasn't first away but he mustered quickly from Box 4 to slice underneath early leader On The Rocks (Box 6), who had in turn kept Wow (Box 7) and eventual third-place getter Mickey Doo (Box 8) wide through the early stages.
Castle Warrior opened up a break of about five lengths on the chasing pack at the top of the home straight and then gripped on to claim a memorable race win.
His time of 25.89 was only 0.11 outside the track record and the Bulli Gold Cup triumph was arguably the best race win of Castle Warrior's 32-start career.
The 2023 edition of the race was taken out by classy Victorian Panadero Warrior for Paul Abela.
The winner of over $100,000 in career prizemoney had a penchant for one bend tracks and once the final field was complete and he landed Box 8, many tipsters had him pegged as the winner.
The race itself went according to script, with Panadero Warrior exploding out of the boxes to lead all the way for a 2.25 length win. Zipping Novak tried hard in second, with Can't Handle It holding on for third.
Dean and Andrea Baker made the seven hour trip North to watch their son Jordan's dog claim his first Group win.
“We’re from a little town called Wunghnu which is about two and a half hours north of Melbourne,” Dean explained.
“So it's been a bit of a long trip to get here … but it’s well worth it. We bought him at three months old and we reared him, and, well, the rest is history," he said.
“We didn’t come up (for the heats) last week, we came up last night and we're driving back tonight and celebrating all the way. It'll be a quick trip home," he added.
2023 Cyril Rowe Bulli Gold Cup Winner Panadero Warrior with Dean and Andrea Baker as well as Michelle Sultana (left)
2023 Cyril Rowe Bulli Gold Cup Winner Panadero Warrior
2022 Ladbrokes Cyril Rowe Bulli Gold Cup Winner Castle Warrior with trainer Mark Wilcox