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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


THURSDAY: February 29, 2024: BLAKE Ryan could not have wished for a more fitting victory with Midori Giant at Kembla Grange today.

Not only was the lightly-raced three-year-old’s important breakthrough in the Provincial Maiden Plate (1600m) his first for Hong Kong-based Magus Equine, but it also brought up a century of wins this season for the Hawkesbury training base.

Leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup followed by scoring later in the program with Cool and Calm ($2.70 favorite), and Claire Lever put the icing on the cake by also winning with Luai ($2.30 favorite) at Bathurst, making it 19 winners for February to boost the total to 102.

A $100,000 yearling from the 2022 Magic Mllions sale in Adelaide, Midori Giant ($4.20) was having only his fourth start – and second this campaign – and held off strong-finishing Kembla Grange local Chentileeno ($16) after a heady Jay Ford ride.

“Midori Giant was bouncing around in the barrier at Goulburn first-up and lost it before running home well to finish third over 1300m,” Ryan said.

“Jay put him up on the pace today when he jumped well, and made the favorite (Bush Girl, who finished third) work.

“The ride won the race.”

Ryan’s successful business preparing unraced young horses for the annual Inglis Ready2Race sale in spring contributed to him securing an opportunity to train for Magus Equine Limited.

“I got a phone call asking if I was interested in training for Magus, and I’ve now got 15 for them,” he said.

“They are all young horses, and Midori Giant is the first one I’ve got to the races, so it was great to win with him today.

“He is still learning and doesn’t know how to put them away yet.

“Midori Giant will run 2000m, but I’m not in a hurry to get him there.

“He will probably stay at a ‘mile’ again for his next run.

“Midori Giant eventually will go to Hong Kong, but for now he is with me and we’ll do the best we can to have further success.”

Widdup was in Melbourne inspecting yearlings and missed seeing Cool and Calm land the 4YO & Up Maiden Handicap (1200m), but like Ryan, was nonetheless pleased to get a good result.

The I Am Invincible four-year-old is raced by his breeder Reg Kemister, who offered him at the 2021 Inglis Classic yearling sale and kept him when the reserve price wasn’t reached.

“Unfortunately Cool and Calm required knee surgery before he began his career, so Reg has been very patient,” Widdup said.

“He had three runs at the start of the season and was first-up today after two nice trials.”

Keagan Latham, who rode Cool and Calm in both trials, got the gelding home narrowly from Nibidano ($3.20) to provide his trainer with his 32nd winner of the season.

Widdup confirmed his smart mare Tintookie would remain at home to race at Royal Randwick on Saturday instead of going to Melbourne for a Flemington assignment.

“I wasn’t able to arrange suitable transport, which is a shame as Flemington looked a very suitable race for her,” he said.

“She can still run well just the same at Randwick, but there are a number of good chances.”

“Family horse” Luai (Grant Buckley) clinched a hat-trick – all have been at Bathurst – when he landed the Class 2 Handicap (1400m) under 60.5kg.

A four-year-old by Epaulette, Luai has relished the addition of blinkers, and his three recent victories have contributed to Lever’s seven wins so far this season.

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