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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


FRIDAY: March 29, 2024: HUSBAND and wife trainers Jason Attard and Lucy Keegan-Attard hope a home track breakthrough yesterday can lead to more success in Saturday’s Provincial Midway-Championships Qualifier at Wyong.

Team Attard’s heavily backed $2.80 favorite Invaida Prince took the Sky Racing Provincial Maiden Handicap (1300m) immediately following fellow Hawkesbury trainer Jack Pilkington’s debut triumph with two-year-old Alabama State ($4.40) in the TAB We’re On CG&E Maiden Handicap (1100m) continued a record-breaking month for the local training base.

Twenty-six winners have come out of Hawkesbury in March, lifting the season’s tally to 128.

In an ironic twist of events, the Attards lost last week’s Kembla Grange PMC Qualifier winner Ruby Flyer to leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup following a change of ownership, but gained Invaida Prince from him.

Having only his sixth start – and fourth for his new trainers - Invaida Prince (Rachel King) raced away to easily defeat’s Widdup’s Jump In The Line ($10) to give the training duo their seventh winner of the season.

“Brad rang Lucy after the race to congratulate us on winning with Invaida Prince,” Jason Attard said last night, revealing the camaraderie amongst Hawkesbury trainers.

“It was a nice gesture, and there’s certainly no hard feelings.

“In fact, I’m pretty sure Brad recommended Invaida Prince come to us as he has been a tricky horse to train.

“It has taken us a while to work him out, but life on the farm has suited him away from the track.”

“Now that he has broken through, hopefully he can go on with it.”

Whilst Invaida Prince, a three-year-old by Invader, started at lengthy odds ($81) when third in a Hawkesbury 3YO Maiden (1300m) nine days earlier, no such luxury odds were around this time.

Nonetheless back against provincial company, punters backed him from a $4.20 quote to start a pronounced favorite – and never had any concerns as he scored by more than three lengths.

With that maiden success safely tucked away, the Attards are looking to take a hand in the $1m Provincial-Midway Championships Final (1400m) by qualifying either Stars and Bars or Leandra (or both) in Saturday’s Wyong Qualifier (1350m).

Whilst the stablemates haven’t drawn the best, Jason Attard feels that may be a help rather than a hindrance.

“Stars and Bars is a big long-striding horse, and is better off being drawn wide on the tight Wyong circuit,” he said.

“Leandra doesn’t like being cluttered up inside horses, and needs room to get into rhythm.”

Rory Hutchings rides Stars and Bars and Mikayla Weir partners Leandra. Th first two placegetters secure starts in the April 13 Final at Royal Randwick.

The Attards also were pleased with the performance of Proceed’s fifth in Invaida Prince’s race.

“He has now had two runs back and is definitely looking for further,” Jason Attard said. “It was an encouraging run.”

Meanwhile, Jack Pilkington, who joined the Hawkesbury training ranks last year, became the 21st local to win this season when Alabama State broke through at his fifth start.

An $80,000 yearling buy at the Gold Coast Magic Millions sale last year, Alabama State clinched an overdue breakthrough when Jason Collett gave him a trouble-free run to defeat Je Reve ($2.90) and $2.20 favorite Bellenth.

“I always knew he would be better as a three-year-old when I bought him,” Pilkington said.

“So to get five conditioning runs out of him as a two-year-old along with winning a race has been a real bonus.

“I was hoping we might get three or perhaps four runs.

“Alabama State has definitely earned a break, and will go out for at least six weeks.

“I’m sure we are going to have a lot more fun with him.”

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