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THE future belongs to those who plan for it!

The words of the late Guy Walter, the 35-times Group 1 winning trainer who died suddenly in 2014, kept ringing in Brad Widdup’s ears.

Hence Hawkesbury’s leading trainer has “built” on another successful racing year, highlighted by a Group 1 breakthrough with the now retired Icebath at Flemington last spring, by substantially increasing the size of his stable complex.

“Thanks to Icebath, we have been able to add a new block of 17 boxes, taking our number to 70,” Widdup said.

“I have always remembered chatting with Guy one day when I was based with Godolphin, and asking him why he had decided to add stables at Goulburn to his Warwick Farm base.

“He said you needed 70 to 80 boxes if you wanted to be competitive in Sydney racing.”

Brad Widdup Racing publicly unveiled the new block recently at an open day, which was extremely well attended.

“Mostly because of COVID, this was the first time we had opened the stables in three years,” Widdup said.

“It was a good opportunity toward the end of the season and with a new one coming on to invite all our owners and industry participants.

“We had a lot of great compliments on the new block, and the day went off really well.”

Widdup’s lengthy time with Godolphin before taking out his own training licence in 2017 inspired him to ensure the new boxes were built with plenty of room for their inhabitants.

“There was an area at Crown Lodge which was called ‘The Yards’,” he explained.

“Horses which weren’t doing so well in a more confined box went into The Yards.

“We wanted to do something different here when we built the new boxes, and made sure they are spacious.

“That doesn’t make the horses go any faster, but we’re very proud of how they have come up.

“We had the appropriate space to expand, and now it’s done.”

Widdup has just concluded another successful season, preparing 59 winners; averaging just over 48 per season in each of the six full seasons he has been training.

His last winner of the 2022-23 racing year, Travelling Kate at Canterbury on July 26, took him to within four of a career 300.

The “boy from Albury” has come a long way, although he wasn’t necessarily thinking of a permanent role in the racing industry toward the end of his school days, even though he grew up around horses.

Widdup’s father Pat has been a long-time trainer in Albury, and the stables were in the backyard.

“I saw first hand how tough things were for a country trainer, and I didn’t want to do that,” he recalled.

“First prizemoney back then was about $1100, and of course things have since changed dramatically.

“Albury was the best place to grow up. School days were great and I liked sport.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school, and remember going to Narrandera to apply for a job in the railways.

“The recession had hit and there were about 300 blokes chasing the job, and you had to do an IQ job. Times were pretty hard.”

It took a phone call from Widdup’s brother Warren to lure him to Sydney – and it was the beginning of a long road which eventually led to him launching his own training career in the latter part of the 2016-17 season.

“Warren rang one day toward the end of 1992 to say Sydney trainer Rod Craig (now retired) was taking a young horse north for the Ballina Bracelet en route to the Magic Millions, and needed someone to fill in at the stables for a couple of weeks,” Widdup said.

“I had nothing on my plate, and hopped on a float going to Sydney carrying a bag and a plastic bag.

“I virtually never went home.”

Widdup stayed at Eclipse Lodge with Craig and when the legendary BJ (Brian) Smith took over, got his first taste of Group 1 glory.

“Brian won the 1995 AJC Oaks with Circles Of Gold, who later became an outstanding broodmare, producing the likes of Elvstroem and Haradasun.

“I looked after Circles Of Gold and travelled interstate with her to the carnivals.

“BJ had different ideas and was always prepared to try something else. I watched a lot and picked up plenty from him.”

Widdup spent three years with Smith and, when he scaled back his team, rejoined Craig when approached to be his foreman at 21 years of age.

“Rod didn’t have a big team, and one of them was an unraced chestnut by Integra and it was easy to quickly take a shine to him,” he said.

His name was Intergaze, who won on debut at Rosehill Gardens, and went on to win another 11 races (eight of them Group 1s), and is still remembered for his giant-killing defeat of Octagonal in the champion’s farewell race (the 1997 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick).

Widdup saddled Intergaze as Craig’s daughter Nicole married the now Randwick trainer John Thompson that day.

He subsequently moved to Brisbane in 1999, helping run then Sydney trainer Bill Mitchell’s satellite stable.

The Brisbane stable also had Group 1 success, capturing the 2000 Doomben Cup with three-year-old Akhenaton, who remarkably had won his Maiden at Newcastle only two months earlier.

Off the track, Widdup also was a winner in even more special ways. He bought his first house at 27 years of age and became engaged and later married Milissa, daughter of retired Brisbane trainer Fred Thomas.

The couple now has three children – sons Cooper and Hunter and daughter Maddi.

After Mitchell closed his Brisbane stable, Widdup went back to Sydney and joined Graeme Rogerson’s stable at Randwick.

He then joined fellow Randwick trainer Kevin Moses as foreman for four years, before securing a position as assistant trainer to Peter Snowden at Warwick Farm’s Crown Lodge (then owned by Ingham Bloodstock and later that year sold to the Godolphin operation).

Widdup spent six and a half years with Snowden and his son Paul (who managed the Melbourne stable) before father and son started their own joint training business, and then a further three years with John O’Shea.

During his time at Crown Lodge, Widdup was associated with more than 40 Group 1 winners until, after nearly a decade with Godolphin, opportunity came knocking to begin a new chapter in his racing life – branching out as a trainer in his own right at Hawkesbury.

With a Group 1 triumph now tucked away, 70 boxes to accommodate his burgeoning stable and on the verge of a career 300 winners, Widdup is understandably looking forward to kicking off another season.

“We’ve got some promising horses who are now a year older, and a really nice crop of two-year-olds who, of course, are yet to begin their careers,” he said.

“Outstanding horses such as Icebath are very hard to replace, but we’ll keep working hard and see if we can find another one.

“You never know what is around the corner in this game!”

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