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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


SUNDAY: March 6, 2022: THERE was a touch of irony to trainer Terry Croft’s victory with Riviera Blue at Newcastle yesterday.

Croft clinched a breakthrough success with lightly-raced Riviera Blue ($9) in the Maiden Plate (1200m) at the Provincial-Midway Championships Qualifier meeting which had to be transferred from his home track.

Three-year-old Riviera Blue is a homebred second foal of Villa Splendido, who won the 2YO Handicap (now Clarendon Stakes) on debut for fellow local trainer Garry White at Hawkesbury’s 2012 Saturday stand-alone fixture.

That was a race which Croft remembers all too well.

“I had a runner in the same race, Catseye Surprise (a $61 roughie), and she was a bit unlucky in finishing third,” Croft recalled today.

“It was nice to get a breakthrough with Villa Splendido’s son yesterday.”

White prepared Riviera Blue for his first two starts, finishing fourth on debut on the Kensington track last September and then failing there a fortnight later.

But there were excuses for the latter performance.

“Riviera Blue was shin sore afterwards, and was given a break,” Croft said.

“He was having only his fourth start yesterday, and I’m sure he will eventually run 1600m.”

Sporting blinkers for the first time, Riviera Blue raced up on the pace and scored convincingly from In The Blink ($4.80) and Oakfield Redgum ($7.50).

Riviera Blue was Croft’s second winner for prominent breeder-owner Grahame Mapp (the first was Hot Dancing at Hawkesbury on October 21), having taken over the team following a disqualification imposed on White by RacingNSW stewards late last year.

Mr Mapp’s Hobartville Stud has a Pierro filly from Villa Splendido listed for offer at the forthcoming Inglis Australian Easter yearling sale.

Villa Splendido’s half-sister, the now deceased November Flight, was also prepared by White and her seven wins also included the Group 3 Hawkesbury Crown at the 2007 stand-alone meeting, along with a Group 3 Millie Fox Stakes at Rosehill Gardens.

Riviera Blue was Croft’s fifth winner of the season (and 93rd for Hawkesbury trainers), and he reported the gelding pulled up well from yesterday’s race and will find another suitable assignment for him once he has scanned the programs.

Croft was one of five Hawkesbury trainers who had representatives in yesterday’s $150,000 Qualifier (1400m) – restricted to provincial trainers – but good fortune evaded them.

Croft’s Just A Brother ($41) finished 11th to Geo, and isn’t likely to tackle another Qualifier in an attempt to make the $500,000 Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 9.

“It was a throw at the stumps, but he drew near the outside with the rail 6m out,” Croft said.

“Had he drawn a decent alley, I feel he would have finished in the Top 5.

“He is looking for further now, and I don’t think he’ll run in another Qualifier.”

Other Hawkesbury representatives yesterday were Edward Cummings’ Reformist (4th at $15), Brad Widdup’s Free State (9th at $26), Team Vigouroux’s Lemaire ($15th at $31), and Brooke Somers’ Dream Eclipse (16th at $101).

Aside from Croft’s success with Riviera Blue, Widdup (second with Travelling Kate) and Blake Ryan (third with Calgary King) notched placings at the transferred meeting.

HOOFNOTE: Croft’s is looking to unearth a replacement for his grand old campaigner No Escape, who has been retired.

No Escape, now nine years of age, won seven races – including three at Mudgee and another at Rosehill Gardens in January, 2020 at $21 on heavy ground – and notched 14 minor placings in a 58-start career which yielded earnings of $327,725.

He ran his last race when unplaced on his home track over 1300m on November 18.

“No Escape has been retired to part-owner Mal Russell’s farm at Rylstone, and will have a good home for the rest of his life,” Croft said.

“He was a terrific horse to the stable. They don’t come along every day.”

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