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  • John Curtis


SATURDAY: November 21, 2020: EVERYTHING old is new again!

Hawkesbury trainer Mike Van Gestel called on experienced country jockey Ken Dunbar to reunite with Charlie Chap yesterday at the scene of their first triumph – and it paid a nice dividend.

Having only his third ride on the six-year-old, Dunbar got the gelding back into the winning list at Orange, in the Benchmark 58 Handicap (1000m), at $13.

A price Van Gestel thought was indeed “over the odds” as he regarded him as most unlucky at his previous start when a close third at Canberra on Melbourne Cup day.

Dunbar won the Silver Apple 2YO Showcase Handicap (1000m) on Charlie Chap in April 2017 at that track, and had ridden him only once since when fifth in a heat of the Provincial Championships (1400m) at Kembla Grange in March 2018.

“I didn’t give Ken any instructions before the race because he knew the horse,” Van Gestel said today.

“He rode him well, pushing him along early to ensure he maintained his momentum just off the pace.”

Charlie Chap challenged strongly in the straight and, after hitting the front, had enough in reserve to hold off the strong-finishing Alfstar ($7).

As delighted as Van Gestel was to see Charlie Chap notch the sixth win of his career, he pondered what might have been had luck been more on the gelding’s side during his career and has decided to put him on the market.

“Charlie Chap has been a good horse to us, but he has been unlucky and should have won a lot more prizemoney than he has (just over $200,000 including a BOBS bonus).

“I feel the time is right to put him up for sale. I’ve got a young horse (Titan Star) in work and some young ones about to come in, and I’m getting older, so that’s enough for me.”

Van Gestel explained Charlie Chap underwent surgery early last year to correct a wind problem.

“He came back and won two races in a row at Hawkesbury (both over 1000m) in July last year, but ended up with scar tissue,” he said.

“Charlie Chap should be running over longer distances, but that’s why I have kept him to the shorter races.”

Van Gestel clinched a cheap package deal online when he bought Charlie Chap as a foal at foot along with his dam, the Testa Rossa mare Brookton Dawn (who was in foal to Poet’s Voice), explaining he liked Charlie Chap’s sire Benfica.

He offered Charlie Chap for sale at the 2016 Ready2Race sale in Sydney, but kept him when the youngster didn’t reach his reserve price.

He thought enough of him as a two-year-old to take him to Brisbane in 2017 for the Group 1 J J Atkins Stakes (1600m), run at Doomben that year as Eagle Farm was closed, but said the trip was a disaster as his horse never settled in.

. Van Gestel, who keeps only a small team, won Group 3 races with Casino Dancer, but sadly lost his well-performed mare when she died after giving birth to her only foal, the so far unraced three-year-old Who Loves To Dance (by Deep Field).

Casino Dancer’s Group 3 victories were both in 2015 (the Angst Stakes, 1600m at Royal Randwick, and Eclipse Stakes, 1800m at Sandown). She was also placed in the Group 2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m) at Flemington that year and Group 3 Hawkesbury Cup (1600m) the following year.

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