SUNDAY: October 3, 2021: BRAD Widdup understandably was left wondering what he has to do to clinch a feature success with Icebath after her luckless run in yesterday’s $1.5m Group 1 Epsom Handicap at Royal Randwick.
But he is hoping to have to wait only a few weeks before getting another opportunity in Sydney’s richest new race for fillies and mares, the $2m The Invitation (1400m), to be run at that track on October 23.
All the indications are that Icebath, edged out of both last spring’s $7.5m Golden Eagle (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens and this autumn’s $3m Group 1 Doncaster Mile at Randwick in photo-finishes, will be one of the 12 “girls” chosen to contest the inaugural running.
A panel has been appointed by RacingNSW to select the field, and some announcements are expected this week.
Widdup, Hawkesbury’s leading trainer, this morning reported Icebath had fortunately come through unscathed from her troublesome passage when ninth (beaten only three lengths) to Private Eye in yesterday’s Epsom (1600m).
“I was worried we might find something wrong somewhere, but thankfully she is fine,” he said.
“The owners are keen for her to get an invite to The Invitation and we’ll freshen her for that if it is forthcoming.
“Under the set weights plus penalties conditions, she would have only 54kg.”
Icebath is currently one of four mares on the second line of betting at $11 with TAB.com.au behind New Zealand’s Entriviere ($3.50 favorite) in The Invitation market.
Not surprisingly, Icebath figured prominently in the RacingNSW stewards’ Epsom report.
“Icebath blundered on jumping, then was held up for clear running from the 400m until the 100m,” the report noted.
“Near the 150m, she was steadied, became unbalanced and blundered when disappointed for a run between Hungry Heart and Mo’unga.”
Whilst circumstances didn’t permit Icebath to be a stellar performer in the Epsom, her stablemate of the same name certainly was at Newcastle.
A lightly-raced four-year-old mare by Sebring from the unraced Street Cry mare Stellatina, Stellar Performer ($6) landed the Class 1 Handicap (1600m) to throw her name into the hat for inclusion in the inaugural The Four Pillars, a $700,000 Benchmark 68 Midway Handicap (1500m) to be run at Rosehill a week after The Invitation.
A member of the Waratah Thoroughbreds team, Stellar Performer was having only her second start for Widdup and won her second race from only five starts.
She had finished sixth to Sunborn (already an inclusion in The Four Pillars line-up) when resuming in a Benchmark 64 Handicap (1400m) at Hawkesbury on September 9.
Stellar Performer was ridden by Blake Spriggs, who also was aboard when she broke through in a 1600m Maiden Plate at Goulburn for her previous trainer Stephen O’Halloran, now based at Hawkesbury.
Stellar Performer was strong to the line at Newcastle to defeat Frankel three-year-old Money From The Sky ($1.80 favorite), and her Benchmark rating subsequently was lifted from 55 to 60.
“Stellar Performer is a mare on the rise with a suitable benchmark figure for The Four Pillars,” Widdup said.
“I’ll look to run her again to try to promote her chances of getting into the field.”
Widdup’s hopes of a Newcastle double were dashed when Tycoon Hallie ($2.60 favorite) was slow to begin and then was crowded between two other horses before finishing third in the Benchmark 64 Handicap (1850m).
“She is also an entrant for The Four Pillars, and I would most likely put blinkers on her coming back to 1500m if she happened to gain a start,” Widdup said.