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  • Provincial Racing NSW


THEIR purchase prices were indeed contrasting but it mattered nought as Blake Ryan celebrated an important achievement on his track on Tuesday.

The Hawkesbury trainer not only landed his first double but also put the seal on his best ever season in only his third full year since taking out his licence and setting up shop there in January 2021.

Ryan scored with Shadow Express ($6) and Nefertari ($3.90), and had the help of the Collett siblings Alysha and Jason to do so.

“They both produced great rides,” Ryan said on Tuesday evening.

“I was confident both would run well, and it was terrific to get my first double at home.

“I rarely have two runners at a meeting.

“The season started slowly as my first winner (Lady Extreme at Gosford) didn’t come until early December, but it’s been really good since.”

Shadow Express, a $5000 online purchase in October last year, took the Workers Lifestyle Group Maiden Handicap (1500m), whilst American Pharoah filly Nefertari, successful in the Pioneer Services Provincial Maiden Handicap (1300m), fetched $360,000 as an Inglis Classic yearling in 2022.

Ryan’s inaugural double boosted his tally for the current season to 10, bettering his eight winners in 2021-22.

Shadow Express, a three-year-old son of 2017 Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap winner Impending, was transferred to Ryan when Mark Newnham relocated to Hong Kong last year.

“The plan was to try to get the horse there, but it didn’t happen and his Hong Kong owners decided to sell him,” Ryan explained.

“I asked Mark if it would be okay if I tried to buy him, and was surprised he didn’t bring more as he hadn’t raced.

“Shadow Express had a couple of runs in November before a break, and every run since returning has been full of merit.

“He ran well first-up when second at Kembla Grange in April, then drew poorly and got back at Hawkesbury and there were also excuses last time in a funnily run race back at Kembla Grange a fortnight ago.”

Ryan’s victory with Nefertari in all-Hawkesbury finish (she edged out Steve O’Halloran’s Webejamin, $16 and Tommy Wong’s $26 chance Glory Start) came after an exasperating time with the filly.

“She is a lovely filly and the first foal of a dual New Zealander winner Royal Fashion (by Snitzel), but it hasn’t been easy going at all,” he said.

“Nefertari has had chips removed from a fetlock and a tie-back operation, and this was only her fourth start.

“She was less than two lengths from the winner first-up at Hawkesbury at the end of last month, and I was a bit worried about going from 1000m to 1300m with her, especially as she had only one trial before resuming.

“Nefertari was out on her feet at the 100m, but Jason (Collett) lifted her across the line.”

Ryan also accepted with the filly in the Fowler Civil Contracting Maiden Plate (1100m), but opted for the longer race on a drying track.

Ryan has a 24-horse barn at Hawkesbury, and half of them are up and running.

“Hopefully our season is by no means over,” he said. “I’ve got Lady Extreme and Call Me Grouchy running at Kembla Grange on Thursday, and another couple at Goulburn on Friday.”

Whilst Ryan was the sole provincial winner at Hawkesbury, the jockeys’ premiership has developed into an interesting contest following other results at the meeting.

Kerrin McEvoy’s treble (Waterski, Fifth Force and Inquisitive Legend) and Jason Collett’s double (he also scored on World Alliance in the closer) took them to 12 and 11 wins for the season, with last year’s winner Tyler Schiller also on 12.

The trio is right on the heels of gun apprentice Zac Lloyd, who has ridden 13.5 winners at Hawkesbury this season - and there are three more meetings before season’s end.

Ryan Maloney will ride Luncies for leading Newcastle trainer Kris Lees in Saturday’s $250,000 Listed Ipswich Cup (2150m).

Luncies has drawn barrier four in the 14-horse field, and will carry the topweight of 60kg.

Leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup has Sneaky Paige resuming in the Listed Gai Waterhouse Classic (1200m) at Ipswich, and apprentice Cejay Graham has the mount.

Story John Curtis, June 18, 2024 - Pics Bradley Photos

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