WEDNESDAY: December 2, 2020: LIGHTLY-RACED three-year-old Free State’s Gosford resumption today coincided with the arrival of his talented stablemate Icebath back at their Hawkesbury barn.
And it was good news on both fronts for leading trainer Brad Widdup.
Free State broke through – though only just – in the Provincial & Country Maiden Plate (1100m) as a $1.50 favorite, whilst $7.5m Golden Eagle runner-up Icebath returned home a few days ago after a short spell, and is in terrific order to be readied for an autumn campaign.
“She did really well during her break, and put on 27kg,” a delighted Widdup said this evening.
Whilst Icebath was narrowly beaten by Colette in the 1500m Golden Eagle at Rosehill Gardens on October 31, her trainer is hoping she can attain a Group 1 success against her own sex in the fillies and mares’ feature, the Coolmore Classic, over the same course in March.
Widdup rekindled a previously successful association with Free State’s breeder Frank Meduri when the youngster shed his maiden status at Gosford at only his third start.
“Frank was one of the owners of Circles Of Gold (1995 ATC Oaks winner and 1996 Caulfield Cup runner-up), and I was her strapper,” Widdup said.
“He sold Free State at the Gold Coast last year for $50,000 and decided to stay in him.”
The aptly-named three-year-old is the fourth foal of the Johannesburg mare Johanski, a Sandown winner and four times Melbourne placegetter.
He raced only twice last season as a two-year-old, being placed at both Kembla Grange and Warwick Farm, and returned as a gelding today.
With Koby Jennings aboard, Free State clambered back from what appeared certain defeat on straightening to raise a sterling effort and edge out Pumbaa Rua ($7.50) by the narrowest possible margin.
Another Hawkesbury representative, Edward Cummings’ Spanish Pearl ($12), was third.
Though Free State’s margin was slender, Widdup is confident he will be an even better proposition on a roomier circuit track and some extra distance.
“He might have got a bit flat-footed on the tight track when the pressure went on, but was still good enough to win,” he said.
“This race was a good starting point, and at least he has got his maiden out of the way.”