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  • Provincial Racing NSW


IT’S already a record month for the Hawkesbury training base – and there’s still a week to go!

Four winners at Kembla Grange yesterday – three to Brad Widdup and another to Mike Van Gestel – followed by a further success, courtesy of Claire Lever, at Orange yesterday boosted to 23 the number of winners since March 1.

Such has been the flow of Hawkesbury winners that Lever’s victory with three-year-old filly Lozen ($4.60), downing odds-on favorite O’Explosive ($1.65) in the Maiden Plate (1610m) was the 50th since the start of the new year and the 125th this season.

Widdup, Van Gestel and Lever between them have contributed 62 of those winners.

Widdup’s Kembla Grange treble with Joint Mission ($3.40 favorite), Hasty Honey ($2.50 favorite) and Ruby Flyer ($19) lifted his season’s tally to 45; Van Gestel’s triumph with Dark Glitter ($10) was his ninth and Lozen Lever’s eighth.

What should have been a brilliant day for Hawkesbury’s leading trainer, especially after recent stable acquisition Ruby Flyer (Zac Wadick) qualified for the $1m Provincial-Midway Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 13, unfortunately ended in tragedy.

Widdup’s good mare Tintookie had to be put down after crashing at the 400m when appearing to be travelling well in the Rosehill Gardens closer; only 15 minutes after Ruby Flyer had made a winning debut for his new stable.

Tintookie, a $30,000 yearling buy who won five races and was placed seven times from only 18 starts and earned nearly $500,000 for her connections, was still improving, according to her trainer.

“It was a tragedy for everyone connected with her; the owners and our staff,” Widdup said.

“She was just coming into her own.”

Tintooookie was in fact Hawkesbury’s first winner of the new year (at Randwick on January 5), and the first of Widdup’s 24 winners in the first three months of 2024.

“It’s been a bit surreal to have had such great success so far this year, and hopefully there is more to come,” he said.

Lightly-raced three-year-old fillies Joint Mission (by Pierro) and Hasty Honey (by Epaulette) won the F&M Maiden Plate (1400m) and Provincial Class 1 Handicap (1400m) respectively, and Ruby Flyer surged home to land the Provincial-Midway Championships Qualifier (1400m).

Rory Hutchings rode Joint Mission, whilst stable apprentice Wadick partnered both Hasty Honey and Ruby Flyer.

A change of ownership resulted in the latter joining Widdup’s team only a few weeks ago, and they now have a runner in the PMC Final, chasing the $540,000 first prize.

Widdup withdrew pre-post favorite Ausbred Flirt because of the heavy track to rely on the newcomer, and Wadick gave him a beaut ride.

He now has qualified both the Hawkesbury winner Short Shorts and Ruby Flyer for the Final, and has both bases covered irrespective of track conditions.

“Short Shorts needs it dry, whereas Ruby Flyer obviously loves the wet,” Widdup said.

“Short Shorts (who ran well when sixth in the ill-fated Group 3 Birthday Card Stakes at Rosehill) won’t start again before the Final, and neither will Ruby Flyer.”

Van Gestel, who keeps only a few horses in work at a time, is having a wonderful season – and has enjoyed a great week with his small team.

He won with $61 chance No Statement at the Wednesday metropolitan meeting at Wyong, and then Dark Glitter put the icing on the cake by taking the Benchmark 64 Handicap (1200m) against her own sex.

“I was annoyed at the price bet about No Statement because he had won 11 races (including one in town) beforehand, but took it to my advantage,” Van Gestel said.

“I just missed $101, but got $71 and $81.

“Not Statement is not going to be easy to place now, and most probably will have to go up against the big boys in town.

“Dark Glitter is a tough filly who has won three of her six starts.

“I ran her in two Provincial-Midway Qualifiers without success, and was going to wait until next year to have another shot.

“But she can only win another two races otherwise she becomes ineligible, so we might try for the Wild Card (1400m) at Newcastle on Wednesday week.”

Van Gestel heaped deserved praise on apprentice Molly Bourke, who scored on No Statement and drove to Kembla Grange after winning the Rosehill Gardens opener on Elettrica ($5) to complete a two-track double.

“We had Anna Roper booked for Dark Glitter, but she was also booked for another horse in the same race which didn’t start, and Molly kindly agreed to help us out after riding in the first at Rosehill.”

Three-year-old Sioux Nation filly Lozen, a $30,000 buy at the 2022 Inglis HTBA yearling sale in Sydney, continued Lever’s successful season by breaking through at Orange.

Winning rider Grant Buckley had her up in the lead throughout and after gaining a nice break in the straight, she held on doggedly to hold out the hotpot O’Explosive.

Leading Kembla Grange trainers Rob and Luke Price also qualified Victory Lane for the PMC Final by finishing second to Ruby Flyer.

A well-backed $4.20 favorite, Victory Lane (Brock Ryan) couldn’t quite hold off his Hawkesbury challenger, but nonetheless was gallant in defeat.

Leading Kembla Grange trainers Rob and Luke Price, who prepare Victory Lane, won the opener at home, the Midway 3YO Class 1 Handicap, with Monte Supreme ($9.50), who was resuming after a short break.

Fellow Kembla Grange trainer Kerry Parker made the trip to Goulburn today worthwhile when he scored with Flying Bandit ($5.50) in the Super Maiden Handicap (1300m) at the Showcase meeting.

Ridden by Jay Ford, the Trapeze Artist three-year-old was having only his second start.

Story John Curtis, March 24, 2024 - Pics Bradley

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