SUNDAY: June 28, 2020: BRAD Widdup is not one for self praise!
But Hawkesbury’s leading trainer surely will look back down the track on this being a defining season in his brief career to date.
Widdup continued his recent run of success when Sebring filly Shaik made an impressive debut at Newcastle yesterday, storming home from near last on the turn in the 2YO Maiden Plate (900m).
A $6.50 chance and with Jay Ford aboard, Shaik overpowered her rivals to defeat Riccardo ($8) and Media Man ($13).
Widdup began training just over three years ago, but his world was turned upside down in May last year when his major backer, prominent owner Damion Flower, was arrested on drug smuggling charges.
The ensuing months have been tough for Widdup and his family, through no fault of his own, but giving up wasn’t in his vocabulary.
“I lost more than two dozen horses and a number of high-profile owners,” Widdup said today.
“Rebuilding the stable hasn’t been easy, but through hard work and getting results on the track, we have picked up new owners and have plenty of nice young horses, including 28 yearlings, on our books.”
Widdup prepared 51 winners in his first full season of training in 2017-18, and 41 last season.
He has trained 37 winners so far with only a month of the current season remaining – and isn’t finished yet.
“You always want to keep improving and better the number of winners you had the previous season,” he said.
“We would have passed 41 by now with a bit of luck as we’ve had 81 placings, and many of them have been seconds.
“But I’m determined to finish the season in the best possible manner, and look ahead to the new racing year with confidence.”
If Shaik’s performance yesterday is any guide, he is set to increase his career tally of 134 winners in the coming weeks.
Named after 29-year-old Melbourne-born model Shanina Shaik, Widdup’s filly certainly doesn’t lack style.
A $340,000 yearling purchase, she is the daughter of Golden Slipper winner Sebring and the second foal of Redoute’s Choice mare Apprise, who raced only twice and won at Wyong in January 2015 before being retired to stud.
Shaik’s granddam Vormista was a Group 2 winner and three-times Group 1 runner-up.
Widdup gave the filly five trials – she won her latest over 800m at Hawkesbury on June 15 – during a number of educational preparations before allowing her to make her debut at Newcastle.
“I’ve had to be patient; Shaik is a good-sized filly and has been a bit of a hothead,” Widdup said.
“But there’s only so many trials you can give them. I nearly ran her last time in work, but she wasn’t ready.
“I didn’t want to mess things up because she has ability as she showed at Newcastle.”
Widdup recalled Shaik’s physique and her pedigree coupled with the fact she was a good walker made her an appealing proposition at the sale to be purchased and subsequently raced by a ladies’ syndicate.
“Shaik has pulled up well, and I will look to run her again, perhaps in town, before a break,” he said.
As much as Widdup was delighted with Shaik’s debut, he was just as pleased with the performance yesterday of his breakthrough stakes winner Sandbar, who finished second to lethal first-upper Roheryn in the Benchmark 94 Handicap (1100m) at Rosehill Gardens at only his second start this campaign.
The four-year-old is bang on target for Grafton’s feature sprint, the $200,000 Listed Ramornie Handicap (1200m), on Wednesday week.
Widdup withdrew stablemate Switched from a Benchmark 78 Handicap (1200m) at Rosehill yesterday to wait an extra week for a more suitable assignment. The ultra-consistent three-year-old has missed a place only once from 10 starts, and will chase an overdue city success (she has been placed at her last five starts in town) at Royal Randwick on Saturday in a 3YO Benchmark 70 Handicap (1100m) against her own age, and Tim Clark has been booked.
And there’s more! Widdup welcomes back to the stables tomorrow his emerging sprinting mare Adelong after a fortnight’s break in the paddock as he sets her on a course to build on her already imposing record of six wins (the last three on end at Rosehill) and two seconds from eight starts.