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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


SUNDAY: September 25, 2022: PHIL and Tara Vigouroux celebrated an overdue victory, and Mike Van Gestel continued a terrific start to the season.

It was good news for both Hawkesbury stables at the weekend, with Team Vigouroux clinching a breakthrough with the consistent placegetter Tillman at Bathurst today, and Van Gestel getting his third winner, at Canberra yesterday, since the new racing year began on August 1.

Tillman ($4.60) shrugged off minor placings at seven of his first eight starts (he hasn’t finished further back than sixth) to land the Maiden Handicap (1200m) for colts, geldings and entires at the Showcase meeting at Bathurst.

The Epaulette four-year-old, ridden by Winona Costin, was gallant under his 60kg topweight to lead home a Hawkesbury quinella, holding off Jason Attard and Lucy Keegan-Attard’s Ruby Flyer ($4.60).

“Tillman certainly deserved that win after all those placings,” Tara Vigouroux said this evening.

“Luck was on our side this time as Jason and Lucy’s horse was pushed very wide on the home turn and finished very strongly.

“But our horse was unlucky earlier in the year when runner-up at Muswellbrook, so it’s swings and roundabouts.”

Tillman was to have been offered for sale at the 2020 Inglis Classic yearling sale, but was withdrawn.

“He was a very naughty boy, and injured himself,” Tara Vigouroux explained.

“We were able to lease Tillman, and the breeders kept a share in him.”

The gelding gave Team Vigouroux its second winner of the season, following on from At Midnight’s victory at Moruya on August 14.

Mike Van Gestel has only three horses in work (and one of them is yet to race), so to win three races in the first two months of the season bears testimony to his training skill.

“We’re going allright,” he said, tongue in cheek, today.

No Statement ($3.20) beat $3.10 favorite Miss Hoff in the Benchmark 60 Handicap (1000m) at Canberra yesterday, giving Central Coast apprentice Anna Roper a double.

She very nearly claimed a treble two races later when narrowly beaten on Vancouver Khan in the Benchmark 65 Handicap (1400m).

Van Gestel’s decision to book Roper proved decisive as her 2kg claim lessened No Statement’s weight to 59.5kg; the same as the mare she beat by a half-length.

Van Gestel and his wife Louisa had hoped to buy No Statement’s older half-sister Sakura Blossom (by Golden Slipper winner Vancouver) at a 2018 Inglis broodmare and weanling sale.

They bid on her, but she went for $50,000 and subsequently fetched $150,000 in New Zealand at a Ready To Run sale, and has won two of her only three starts.

Whilst the Van Gestels missed out on Sakura Blossom, their visit to Inglis’ Riverside complex wasn’t a wasted trip.

They purchased her dam Berning Affair, who had raced only twice in Victoria, for $12,000 – and she was in foal to Press Statement.

The resultant foal was No Statement, who has won four races (along with seven placings) and has earned $116,000 so far in his career.

The Van Gestels sold Berning Affair to Gerry Harvey, but not before they bred a filly by Spieth.

“She is now a two-year-old, and isn’t far from being broken in,” Van Gestel said. “We will keep her to race ourselves.”

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