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THURSDAY: July 4, 2019: MIKE Van Gestel became Hawkesbury’s 26th winning trainer this season when underrated Charlie Chap scored first-up on his home track today.

And he brought off a splendid training performance to do so.

A $13 chance, Charlie Chap (Blake Spriggs) was resuming without a trial in the Killahy Equine Benchmark 64 Handicap (1000m) after having a tie back operation to remedy a breathing problem.

“I was half confident he would run well, but you can never be sure how they come back after that operation,” Van Gestel said.

“He is better over longer than 1000m, but I decided to keep him at that distance first-up.

“He is a smart horse, and has run in better races in town.

“It’s good to see him come back so well.”

Van Gestel, who keeps only a small team in work at Hawkesbury, had managed three placings (two of them with Charlie Chap) from 23 previous starters this season.

The Benfica four-year-old underwent surgery after finishing seventh to Clevanicc in a Benchmark 70 Handicap (1550m) at Canterbury on February 8 on heavy ground.

Though Charlie Chap had not trialled – but had the benefit of a couple of jumpouts – some punters backed him at double figure odds, aware of his good first-up record.

Van Gestel thought enough of Charlie Chap to take him to Brisbane as a late two-year-old to contest the Group 1 J J Atkins Stakes (1600m) at Doomben in 2017.

He also ran him in the Kembla Grange heat (1400m) of the Provincial Championships in March last year when he came from 14th at the 800m to finish fifth, and also the Group 3 Hawkesbury Guineas (1400m) the following month when eighth as a $61 outsider.

Charlie Chap was second emergency for today’s resumption, and a couple of withdrawals secured him a spot in the field.

Fittingly, Spriggs got the mount as he also rode Van Gestel’s previous winner; Cheeky Bella at Nowra in April last year.

Though Charlie Chap was slow to begin and then held up for a while rounding the home turn, Spriggs chose to stay on the inside, which proved decisive.

The field fanned well away from the rail on straightening, providing Spriggs with enough room to drive a car through, let alone a thoroughbred.

Charlie Chap responded to his urgings to beat American Salute ($6) and another Hawkesbury representative, Tara and Philippe Vigouroux’s Azcannyaz ($13).

Van Gestel’s season breakthrough was the 154th winner for Hawkesbury trainers so far in 2018-19.

. Rachel King took the riding honours, clinching a treble on Vivaro ($10), Laila De Vega ($6.50) and Saving ($6) from only four mounts.