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  • John Curtis


SUNDAY: January 17, 2021: HAWKESBURY trainers rack up 50 wins for the season, and a promising three-year-old shows he is on the right track with an excellent beginning to a new campaign.

They were the salient points to come out of weekend racing.

Mike Van Gestel clinched Hawkesbury’s 50th winner of the season when Titan Star broke through at Gosford on Friday, whilst Matt Vella’s Blaze A Trail’s strong-finishing first-up Rosehill Gardens second yesterday was a definite sign of things to come.

It had taken Titan Star 18 starts to shed his maiden status, and Van Gestel was a relieved man when the three-year-old son of Rubick put six minor placings behind him in the Provincial & Country Maiden Handicap (1200m).

He turned to last season’s leading Hawkesbury jockey Rachel King to partner the gelding for the first time – and it did the trick.

Quickly in front, $10 chance Titan Star was headed by $2.70 favorite Virtuous Miss in the straight, but fought back to finally taste success.

Another Hawkesbury representative, Claire Lever’s Pragmatism ($5), was third.

“I thought he would have won one or two races by now,” Van Gestel said afterwards.

“He has always shown ability, but has done a couple of things wrong.

“Now that he has broken through, I feel he can win some more races.”

Titan Star had been beaten in country class at Orange only a week earlier, but Van Gestel didn’t despair and notched his second winner of the season.

. Matt Vella admitted to being a “bit lost” at a Saturday metropolitan meeting, but couldn’t wipe the smile from his face when Blaze A Trail ($7) made a brilliant return to racing at Rosehill Gardens yesterday.

With King also in the saddle, the three-year-old son of multiple Group 1 winner Criterion was doing his best work late when runner-up to Tycoonist in a Benchmark 72 Handicap (1300m) for three and four-year-olds.

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect but could not have been more pleased with his performance,” Vella said.

“There’s no doubt he will take improvement from that run, and will be better as he gets to longer distances.”

Blaze A Trail was having his first start since carrying 61kg to an easy victory against his own age (then two-year-olds) over 1600m at Newcastle last July.

Whilst the colt has pulled up well, Vella is uncertain when his next race will be.

He has a Benchmark 78 Handicap (1600m) for three and four-year-olds at Royal Randwick on February 6 tentatively pencilled in, but wants to gauge Blaze A Trail’s progress before confirming a start.

“He won second-up over 1600m at Newcastle last season, but had a break of four weeks between runs and a tick-over trial,” he explained.

“It might be asking too much to stretch him to 1600m in three weeks. “I’ll just wait and see.”

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