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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


SUNDAY: December 11, 2022: A week ago Marc Chevalier made a fruitless eight-hour return trip to start a maiden at a non-TAB meeting at Cooma.

Such are the vagaries of racing that he was at headquarters yesterday with his first runner at Royal Randwick and in a stakes race – and left with a breakthrough city winner with only his third starter in town.

The rookie trainer though experienced horseman, who moved from Melbourne with his wife Charlotte in May last year to take out his licence and set up shop at Hawkesbury, landed the Listed Christmas Cup (2400m) with track specialist Torrens for the same Singapore owner Vincent Balasubramaniam, who also races the unplaced Cooma maiden The Numerol and whom he has never met.

Backed from cricket score odds to start at $19, Torrens (Josh Parr) clearly outstayed his rivals to make it three wins from as many starts over the Randwick 2400m; the first two for his previous Sydney trainer Lauri Parker.

Not only did the expatriate 34-year-old Frenchman Chevalier put his name up in lights by winning a stakes race with his first runner, but stood tall in the winner’s stall ahead of two of Sydney’s outstanding trainers Chris Waller and Annabel Neasham, who prepared the respective placegetters Bonny Ezra ($7) and Regal Lion ($6.50).

Chevalier’s wonderful highlighted a great day for Hawkesbury trainers with three winners also at Kembla Grange; two for leading trainer Brad Widdup and the other for Randwick trainer John O’Shea’s second stable at the provincial track.

Remarkably, it was the winless five-start maiden The Numerol who was responsible for Chevalier getting Torrens to train.

“Vincent had a share in The Numerol and later bought him outright, and the horse hadn’t started at the time when he rang me out of the blue 12 months ago,” Chevalier explained today.

“He said he was looking for a new trainer for the horse, and considered the French are the best at training stayers, and that’s how he came to our stable.

“I have never met Vincent and don’t even know what he looks like, but speak with him regularly on the phone and it was terrific to repay the faith he showed in me by winning the Christmas Cup with Torrens yesterday.

“We were going to have a crack at the Sydney Cup (3200m) earlier this year, but things didn’t work out after he ran first-up in the Canberra Cup (2000m) in March.

“He was a very anxious horse and very colty when I got him, and has been quite challenging to train.

“When he had some leg issues combined with the first lot of floods out our way, there was no point continuing on with him.”

To say it has been a difficult year for Chevalier and wife Charlotte would be some understatement!

“We had two floods and had to evacuate the horses both times; the first to Warwick Farm and the second to Phil and Tara Vigouroux’s stable at Hawkesbury,” Chevalier said.

“It’s never easy on the horses, and thankfully things have settled down again.

“I’ve got 18 horses on the books at present and 11 in work.”

Chevalier admitted he was reluctant to work the six-year-old stallion Torrens too hard getting him ready for this current preparation as he has to manage him carefully because of the leg issues.

“I was disappointed when he ran last second-up in the Listed ATC Cup (2000m) at Rosehill a fortnight ago, but Vincent told me Torrens had a habit of doing that and turning his form around (which he did under Parker’s care when down the track at Kembla Grange over 2000m in August last year before winning over the Randwick 2400m a week later at $26),” Chevalier said.

“I decided to work him pretty hard after that race, and he has coped with it really well.

“I’ll see how he does in the next few days, and there is a chance he could go to Melbourne for the Bagot Handicap (2800m) at Flemington on New Year’s Day.

“But he will probably get too much weight, and more than likely I will ease up on him and set him for the Sydney Cup next autumn.”

Chevalier said he wasn’t associated with the long-priced coup on Torrens (as much as $101 was offered), and didn’t have a bet.

“He was hard to back on his Rosehill failure, but I guess the punters who did so went on his good Randwick record at the 2400m,” he said.

Chevalier will be on the road again tomorrow with The Numerol (previously Inca Empire), this time to Orange for a 1400m Maiden Plate.

“He has to improve on his well-beaten sixth at Cooma last week, but after Torrens winning yesterday, who knows if he will do the same?,” Chevalier said.

. Brad Widdup made it 27 winners for the season so far when Ausbred Flirt ($1.26) and Treasurer ($8.50) scored at Kembla Grange.

Maurice four-year-old Ausbred Flirt made it two on end at the track when she again won handsomely, in a Conditional Benchmark 68 Handicap (1600m), and Treasurer broke through, albeit by a whisker, in the Maiden Handicap (1200m).

Ausbred Flirt is clearly a young mare on rise, having dominated her last two races.

“We have always had a good opinion of her, and she was brilliant when coming from last to win on debut at Newcastle in August last year,” stable foreman Andre Rabbett said today.

“She has had some little niggling issues which have slowed her progress, but is now learning to race more tractably and the results are showing.

“We’ll see how she pulls up before Brad makes a decision where she races next.

“Treasurer was one of our first two-year-old runners last season and his first three starts were all in town.

“Now a three-year-old, he is a bit of a thinker and nearly cost himself the race yesterday when Bucko (Grant Buckley) gave him one around the tail.

“He didn’t like it, and Grant eased up on him and managed to get him over the line just ahead of the other horse ($26 runner-up Victory Lane).”

. John O’Shea topped off a huge day when Carartie ($4.40) from his Hawkesbury base turned in an outstanding performance to come from a clear last and snatch the Benchmark 64 Handicap (1200m).

Carartie was having her first run since August, and added to the trainer’s quinella result in the $2m The Ingham and also winning with Saltaire in the Inglis Nursery at Randwick.

. Fabio Martino, Hawkesbury’s newest trainer, almost made it five weekend winners for the track when Mr Pampera ($11) was just edged out in the closer at Canberra today.

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