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  • Provincial Racing NSW


HAWKESBURY trainer Mike Van Gestel made a statement yesterday with his first Sydney winner in eight years.

Van Gestel couldn’t believe his gelding No Statement was sent out at $41 before leading throughout in the Benchmark 72 Handicap (1000m) on the Kensington track to post the 11th win of his 48-start career.

“To be honest, I was a bit annoyed,” he said today.

“They were looking down at my horse. He wasn’t far outside the 900m track record at Newcastle (at $15) at his previous start when he won a Midway Benchmark 64 Handicap with 62kg.”

Van Gestel wasn’t sure of his previous city winner, but believes it was his now deceased mare Casino Dancer in the Group 3 Angst Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick in October, 2015.

Casino Dancer also won the Group 3 Eclipse Stakes (1800m) at Sandown the following month.

Van Gestel also wasn’t sure No Statement could lead from his wide barrier yesterday, but his five-year-old jumped so swiftly that he easily took up the running.

“I was doubtful he could cross and lead, and said to his rider Amy McLucas that I would be happy for her to sit one out and one back,” he said.

“At the same time, I also said not to worry about leading if he was able to cross the others.

“No Statement did some work and hung on bravely under his 60kg after Amy’s 3kg claim.”

Whilst Van Gestel naturally was thrilled to return to the city winning list, he also had a “soft spot” for fellow apprentice Molly Bourke, who had ridden No Statement in his previous four wins (two at Kembla Grange and two at Newcastle).

“I felt a bit sorry for Molly as she was attending the apprentices’ school at Scone,” Van Gestel said.

“Unfortunately Amy got a brief suspension out of yesterday’s race (she pleaded guilty to a careless riding charge by permitting her mount to shift in when insufficiently clear after leaving the 800m, causing Wondereach to be checked).”

No Statement was McLucas’ 21 city winner (her 20th was achieved earlier in the day on another front-runner Iknowastar), and as a result her allowance reduces to 2kg after Saturday.

Van Gestel and his wife went to the Inglis broodmare and weanling sale in April 2018 keen to buy No Statement’s older half-sister Sakura Blossom (by Vancouver), but missed out when she fetched $50,000 and went to New Zealand.

Instead, they paid $12,000 for the Bernardini mare Berning Affair, who was in foal to Press Statement – and No Statement was the result.

The Van Gestels subsequently bred a filly (who is yet to race) by Spieth from Berning Affair before selling her to Gerry Harvey, who sent her to New Zealand earlier this year.

Van Gestel has done a superb job with No Statement, who has had 17 starts this year and won seven of them.

Aside from his 11 wins (women have ridden him in eight of them), he has been placed 14 times and earned just over $330,000.

Van Gestel has only three horses in work; No Statement, Titan Star (who has won eight races), and an unraced four-year-old mare Sizzling Tale.

That number will “swell” to four soon when the Spieth filly is named and joins his team.

Though it may have been eight years since Van Gestel won a race in Sydney, he is determined it won’t be such a long absence next time as he intends taking No Statement back for a Benchmark 84 Handicap (1000m) four four-year-olds and upwards at Royal Randwick on November 7.

Kris Lees was the other Provincial trainer to post a win, Dream Hour taking out the 1300m BM72.

*Story John Curtis, October 19, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos*

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