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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


SATURDAY: January 13, 2024: TITAN Star was born to be tough!

The Hawkesbury six-year-old was barely months old when his dam Sporty Spur died from a colic attack.

So it is little wonder that on the eve of his 100th start, he is still going strong and registered his ninth career success at Canberra yesterday, backing up only three days after he had run second at Orange last Tuesday.

Ridden by Jean Van Overmeire, Titan Star ($4.60) carried 61kg and overcame the outside barrier in a field of nine in the Benchmark 55 Handicap (1000m) to defeat $4.20 favorite Riva D’Amor and Spirits Burn Deep ($5.50).

From his 99 starts, the gelding has also been placed on 27 occasions (10 of them seconds), and earned just over $280,000.

Trainer Mike Van Gestel and his wife Louisa bought Sporty Spur “on spec” for $13,000 at a 2017 Inglis broodmare and weanling sale when in foal to Rubick.

She gave birth to Titan Star in October that year, but left him orphaned not long afterwards when a bowel complication took her life.

Sporty Spur had been a $145,000 Magic Millions yearling purchase in 2010, but didn’t race after being unplaced in six barrier trials.

Van Gestel, who clinched his fifth win of the season (following on from 10 last season), didn’t hesitate to back up Titan Star after being narrowly beaten by Brief Statement in a Benchmark 58 Handicap (1010m) at Orange earlier in the week.

“He was unlucky not to have won at Orange, and pulled up well,” Van Gestel said.

“He was ready to go again, but I wasn’t sure about myself.

“It was going to be a long day as he was in the last race at the Canberra twilight meeting at 7.30pm, but when there were a few scratchings (five) I decided to make the trip.

“We didn’t get home until near midnight, but the run hasn’t hurt him. There was nothing left in his feed bin when I went to his stable this morning.”

Van Gestel has backed up Titan Star on several occasions previously, but never three days after he had raced.

“I know my horse better than anyone else,” he said.

“He is a ‘square rock’; a strong, muscly horse who has a straight action.

“Drawing the outside was going to be tricky, but Jean had ridden him previously, and obviously knew him.”

Van Gestel says Titan Star, who made his debut when sixth to Tilia Rose in the Max Lees Classic (900m) at Newcastle in November 2019, would never have raced for as long as he has without being gelded.

“He was a real handful, and was gelded after only a few starts,” he said.

Van Gestel isn’t sure exactly when Titan Star will line up for his 100th start, but will scan the programs in the RacingNSW calendar to try to find a suitable race.

Meanwhile, Titan Star’s stablemate No Statement (who has won 11 races, including a Newcastle 900m in September and Kensington 1000m in October), is about to return to work.

The five-year-old has had a break since racing at The Gong metropolitan meeting at Kembla Grange in late November.

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