IT has been seven years since Nathan Turnbull last had a runner in the Bathurst Gold Crown final, but now his stable has a gangster he hopes can break the drought.
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Better Be The Best, who has been given the stable name Tupac after later rapper Tupac Shakur, has shown the sort of qualities which Turnbull feels can carry him to the Group 1 final.
"I've always had a massive opinion of him, ever since I first put him in the gig he's had that x-factor," The Lagoon trainer-driver Turnbull said.
Purchased at the 2021 Bathurst Gold Crown Yearling Sale for $17,500, it did not take long for the Shoobees Place x Patch Maguire colt to be given his stable name.
"He's just a gangster and we just said 'Oh man, we have to call him Tupac'. We actually tried to name him Makaveli [one of Shakur's aliases] and Tupac, but they were all taken, so Better Be The Best is what we came up with," Turnbull revealed.
"He's still a colt, he's got a lot of pizazz and he knows he's a boy too, he's always screaming. You definitely know he's about when he's on the jogging machine.
"He's just got a huge attitude but it's all good, he's not a ratbag at all, but he's definitely a little boy that's for sure."
Better Be The Best won his first two trials for Turnbull, but a second in his third trial, then a 9.6m sixth in his racing debut threw up some questions.
It meant Turnbull opted to give the colt another run prior to the Gold Crown heats. The x-factor returned as Better Be The Best produced an effort which proved to the trainer-driver he had a contender.
While galloping out of the gate and conceding plenty of ground, he found his stride and surged to the lead with a lap to travel.
Better Be The Best then managed to kick again down the home straight to win.
"That last trial I was a little bit disappointed in him, but I pushed him pretty hard in the trial and he ran 1:59 himself. He still ran second in the trial, but I thought he had that x-factor, so that brought us back to earth a little bit," Turnbull said.
"His first start he got caught behind the leader and never got out, he ran over the line with his earplugs still in, but that could've be a blessing in disguise as I sort of didn't really know what to do with him in between that race and the crown.
"You don't want too many runs leading into the crown, you want them pretty sharp. He just went in and had a bit of track work that night and that made the decision to race him the following week easier.
"Annoying as it was he galloped away, he got down quick which was pleasing. I let them all find their positions then I whipped him around them when the leader looked to get a bit of a breather and he went again a second time, so I couldn't be happier with him.
"It's the quickest he ever went, he did a 1:58.5, so he's sort of peaking at the right time hopefully."
The last - and only time - Turnbull has qualified a runner for the final of the annual two-year-old colts and geldings feature was in 2015.
That year he had Sams The Master place third despite drawing barrier 13 for the final.
"I didn't even think they made a number 13, but they did as we got it," Turnbull recalled.
"I was suspended at the time so Amanda [Turnbull] drove him in the final and got third, we got beat a half-a-head by a half-a-head, he was only just off doing the job for us.
"This is the best chance I've had since Sams The Master, that's for sure."
Turnbull has had two-year-olds he's had high hopes for since 2015 and while not being able to earn another crack in the Group 1 final, he has learned along the way.
"We had a good batch of two-year-olds one year and trifectaed the Gold Crown Sale race just before the Gold Crown and we really thought we had a bit of a chance there," he said.
"But I learned a lesson as a trainer there, I probably had them peaking a bit too early, they were all ready to go in that sale race, they trifectaed it and went super, but then they went a bit flat on me and didn't go as well in the crown."
Managing Better Be The Best's workload well and seeing his form has Turnbull hopeful of being in the $110,000, Group 1 Gold Crown decider on March 25.
He knows he'll face stiff opposition from the likes of Brad Hewitt's colt Captains Knock, but is excited to see what his gangster can do.
"He's [Captains Knock] obviously going to be heaps hard to beat and there's ones from Melbourne coming up, so you never know until they're all here," he said.
"But to be at this time of year with a live chance, yeah, it's pretty exciting."
Better Be The Best will go from barrier eight in the second heat of the Gold Crown series on Friday night.
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