A Group 1 victory in the Stradbroke Handicap could be the final piece of the puzzle for apprentice Tim Bell as he looks to advance his career to the next level.
Bell will ride Border Rebel at Eagle Farm tomorrow for his boss and good friend Sue Grills and there’s no doubt he’ll be trying to win the race for her just as much as for himself.
He is just 18 years old but from his Tamworth base he’s well and truly made his mark on Australian racing both in the country and at city level.
As a result he’s looking to ride from a metro base to increase the number of big time opportunities available to him.
He says he wouldn’t be in the position he was today without the support and encouragement from Grills.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better boss than Sue,” Bell said.
“She’s a great trainer but I’ve got to move on. I’ll probably make up my mind within a week where I’m going to.
“Sue is like a mother to me and I’ve been at her stables for the past four years, three of which have been as an apprentice.
“I’d love nothing better than to win my first Group One while I’m still with Sue and on my favourite horse, Border Rebel, which gave me my first city winner.”
It’s not the first time Bell has considered offers from other trainers but it’s only now that he feels he’s at the stage to make the switch fulltime.
At the moment the majority of opportunities appear to be in Sydney however Melbourne and Brisbane are both still to be ruled out of contention.
“I don’t have a preference at this stage and everything is 50-50,” Bell said.
“I’ve had offers from Sydney but you need to have momentum going all the time there.
“Brisbane is a little lower in grade than Sydney or Melbourne and I’ve had a reasonable carnival since I moved temporarily to Brisbane for the winter carnival.
“I’ve had five or six winners and have ridden heaps of placings in Group races.
“The only thing that would inspire me to go to Melbourne is that there’s not many apprentices down there.”
Bell has a massive task ahead of him if he is to win the Stradbroke with Border Rebel showing he was just a little bit behind the game when running fourth by three lengths in the Doomben 10,000.
Also working against him is the fact that since the 1978 win of Greg Hall on Innisfree, just once has an apprentice claimed victory in the event.
Having said that, it was a recent win, Sebastian Murphy claiming the 2008 Stradbroke Handicap with Mr Baritone.
Those stats won’t worry him though, nor Sue Grills who is actually taking a few positives out of his defeat in the 10,000.
“I’m just praying for rain but he has been the forgotten runner,” she said.
“I was very happy with his 10,000 run and he drops 5.5 kilos.
“He led in the 10,000 but there’s no way that will happen in the Stradbroke. I hope he settles fourth or fifth.
“He’s the best horse I’ve trained and he’s been super to me. He can win the Stradbroke, especially if it rains, and the three placegetters that finished in front of him in the Doomben 10,000 are the ones to beat.”
Unfortunately for Grills the track is currently rated a Good 3 and with clear skies around Brisbane at the moment it means an unpredicted downpour overnight is her only chance of a slow track.
If Border Rebel can defy the odds though it would be perfect end to an incredibly productive partnership.
“I’d love to win a Stradbroke, especially with Tim, and I won’t be standing in his way if he decided to move on,” she said.