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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis

"BUSH TELEGRAPH" SPREADS NEWS OF A HAWKESBURY FOUR-TIMER













WEDNESDAY: February 21, 2024: THE “bush telegraph” worked overtime at Hawkesbury today - but it was with winners and not gossip!

Hawkesbury trainers had their best single day in ages, capturing four of the eight races.

And with a bit better luck, it could easily have been six.

Mike Van Gestel, Jason Attard and Lucy Keegan-Attard, Brad Widdup and Marc Chevalier all flew the Hawkesbury flag high at a rare Wednesday meeting, which started out on a ‘Heavy 9’ surface before being upgraded to a ‘Soft 7’.

Van Gestel opened the batting by landing the Blakes Marine Provincial Class 1 Handicap (1000m) with Dark Glitter ($15), and went close to taking home a double, as in the previous race his $81 outsider Sizzling Tale was in front until the closing stages before being overhauled by $4 favorite Skiesthelimit.

Apprentice Molly Bourke rode the lightly-raced pair, with four-year-old mare Sizzling Tale having her sixth start and notching her third placing, and three-year-old filly Dark Glitter has now won twice from only three starts.

Whilst it was Van Gestel’s seventh success this season but first at home, Jason Attard and Lucy Keegan-Attard clinched their sixth win this racing year – and with a debutante.

The cleverly-named three-year-old Press Statement filly Bush Telegraph ($11) won a drama-filled XXXX Gold Midway 3YO Maiden Handicap (1300m).

Jockey Reece Jones had to ride well-backed Zale ($4.40) badly unbalanced on leaving the barrier after his right leg became dislodged from his iron as his stirrup leather broke and the saddle shifted.

He unsuccessfully attempted to regain his offside iron in the early stages as the saddle began to shift and was left with little control and placed at a significant disadvantage.

Then runner-up Llewellyn ($4.80), having his first start in nearly a year, burst to a clear lead in the straight and looked home until tiring near the inside rail as Bush Telegraph snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Bush Telegraph was bred by Colleen Dwyer from the Giant’s Causeway mare Hides (who has been retired from breeding), and the filly’s success continued a successful association she has enjoyed with Team Attard.

The debutante’s now retired half-brother Knight (now retired) was the sole local winner at Hawkesbury’s Saturday stand-alone meeting in 2022, and her half-sister Zahdi was rested after breaking through at Hawkesbury in early November, and is back in work.

“Bush Telegraph is the female version of Knight,” Jason Attard said this evening. “She is a big filly, and was always going to need time.

“There was no point trying to push her early.”

Hawkesbury’s leading trainer Brad Widdup continued his great run of late when Owen County ($2.45 favorite) gave jockey Kerrin McEvoy his third winner of the meeting, in the Pioneer Services Benchmark 64 Handicap (2000m).

It was Widdup’s sixth winner in the last 13 days, following on from Noble Tess (February 8th), Dawla (10th), Troika (13th), Confess Our Dreams (14th), and Audrey’s Lane (15th).

But not before his apprentice Zac Wadick asked for correct weight to be delayed in order to view the photo finish print.

Wadick rode King Kikau ($10), who surged at Owen County in the closing stages, but failed by a whisker to get the judge’s nod.

Widdup also nominated Owen Country for the Canberra Cup Preview (2000m) on Friday, but elected to stay at home with the certainty of a wet track.

“He likes the ground but all the same did a good job today with 60.5kg,” Widdup said.

Widdup took over the Dundeel four-year-old’s preparation after he hadn’t raced since last March, and told the gelding’s owners he would give him a steady build-up.

“Owen County has now won his last two races at the provincials over 2100m and 2000m, but I think he is a 2400m horse,” he said.

“If there isn’t a suitable race in the coming weeks, we might freshen him and look to the winter with the likelihood of more wet tracks.”

Widdup is hoping to maintain his momentum with last start Wyong winner Noble Tess at that track tomorrow as he chases his 32nd victory of the season.

Marc Chevalier labelled eight-year-old mare The Crimson Idol ($11) as the toughest mare he has trained in the aftermath of her determined win in the Clarendon Tavern F&M Benchmark 64 Handicap (1300m).

At her 62nd start, she won her eighth race, and has also been placed on 15 occasions.

“The Crimson Idol is always a bit stiff when she comes out of her stable each morning, but warms up once she gets going and is super tough,” Chevalier said.

“I mentioned to owner Dr Ulysses Crosson recently that it might be nearly time to retire her.

“But she has never pulled up as well as she did after her third at Hawkesbury eight days ago, and it looked a suitable race against her own sex in which to back her up.

“We were expecting another good run, perhaps third or fourth, but Rory (Hutchings) gave her a beaut ride and it was terrific to see her win her first race since also scoring at home over 1500m in November, 2022.

“Dr Crosson has had The Crimson Idol throughout her career, and I expect he will breed from her, but we will try to win another race before that.”

Chevalier is pleased with stable star Torrens, who is scheduled to resume in the Listed City Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on March 9 en route to the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) there on April 13.

“If it’s a heavy track at Randwick that day, we also have the Canberra Cup over the same distance a day later as an alternative,” he said.

“Torrens has had a couple of gallops since an easy few days after his close second in the Australia Day Cup (2400m) at Warwick Farm late last month, and is in really good order.”

 

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