WHEN the Lee family and friends purchased Code Bailey, it was with aspirations that the pacer could become a topliner.
On Friday night at Lord's Raceway, the five-year-old fulfilled those lofty hopes with a dominant win in the $70,000 Group 2 Bendigo Pacing Cup.
Trained at Terang by Margaret Lee, and driven by son Jason, Code Bailey withstood plenty of pressure up front to deliver a new track record performance.
The official margin was 12.9 metres to the Emma Stewart-trained Phoenix Prince, with a brave San Carlo, who was aiming for back-to-back cup wins, able to hang on for third ahead of Maryborough and Yarra Valley cups winner Code Black.
It was a proud moment for Jason Lee, whose only previous drive in the Bendigo Pacing Cup produced a third aboard Bad Billy, in the 2018 race won by Messini. He was quick to laud the son of Christian Cullen's tenacity and ability to dispel the doubters after accounting for a crack cup field.
"There was probably a few unknowns coming in, but to be honest, from our point of view, we were pretty confident that if we could find the front we were were going to be very tough to beat. And even if he didn't he was going to run a great race," Lee said.
"When we purchased the horse, what we were aiming at was the top level.
"His first preparation he was good without being great, but he's had a spell and he's come back an absolute lion."
Testament to Code Bailey's courage and ability, he was able to outstay one of the biggest and strongest cup fields in many years, while stepping up in grade.
Third up from a spell and coming off a win at Melton, Lee was convinced the gelding could withstand the big race pressure.
"First up he absolutely broke the clock, came from last and chased an absolutely highly-rated, freak of a horse (Ride High), who has all before him at the moment, and last start he just worked around, sat parked and jogged up the straight to win," he said.
"He's probably had a bit of a different form line to some of the others coming in, but we were confident.
"It was a really good field; it was probably his first look at the really big boys in open class level. "I know it's hard to make ground from out wide, but every horse had their chance with the work he (Code Bailey) had to do, so all credit to our bloke, he was awesome. "I think he can race at the very top level in those open class races; we just need to keep him sound and happy.
"If we can do that, on that performance, there's no reason why we can't get him to the top level." Lee said the $110,000 Ballarat Pacing Cup on January 18 was just one option open to connections going forward.
He described the win as special on several fronts, with the horse being trained by mum Margaret and owned by family and friends, including former Brisbane Lions team-mates Lewis Taylor (now with Sydney) and Darcy Gardiner.
Special praise was reserved for popular stable hand Lochie Cook, whose efforts since joining the Lee team were rewarded with him being awarded a part-share in Code Bailey.
"Lochie is someone, who came from no background in the (racing) game - he worked in the numbers room at the local track at Terang," he said.
"I didn't know him that well, but knew his family. We got to get know him better working in the numbers room and one day he started doing a bit of work for us at the stable after school.
"Now he wants to be aprofessional driver. From the last 15 or 16 months he's gone from never having driven a horse to driving in trials. "He is one of the hardest working kids I know and if anyone is going to make it in the game, it's going to be him.
"He was working so hard that we felt we needed to give him a reward, so we gave him a share in the horse. He's a very happy lad tonight."
Photo: Connections of Code Bailey celebrate their horse's win in the 2020 Bendigo Pacing Cup at Lord's Raceway on Friday night. Picture: KIERAN ILES