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  • John Curtis


WEDNESDAY: August 25, 2021: The booking of Sydney’s leading jockey James McDonald was the catalyst for smart mare Calgary Queen’s first-up victory on the Kensington track today.

Continuing Brad Widdup’s outstanding start to the season, Calgary Queen ($3.60) favorite led throughout in the Benchmark 72 Handicap (1250m).

But the leading Hawkesbury trainer’s eighth winner since August 1 would never have arisen if McDonald had not taken the mount.

“I had been able to trial her only once (at Wyong on August 2 over 845m) and knew she would be a bit underdone going into this race,” Widdup said this evening.

“James has an excellent strike rate on my horses, and I wouldn’t have started Calgary Queen if he wasn’t available for the ride.

“I chased for several days and managed to book him a couple of weeks ago.

“Otherwise, I would have waited and trialled the mare at Gosford on Monday and then found a race for her.”

To compensate for the one trial, Widdup gave Calgary Queen a jumpout on the Polytrack at Hawkesbury last week and, buoyed by McDonald’s acceptance of the Kensington ride, was confident she would be hard to beat, though aware she was open to further improvement.

“Calgary Queen put two wins on end earlier in the year at Newcastle (the first of them on a heavy track), and ran a terrific race in the Group 3 Hawkesbury Guineas (1400m) on May 1,” Widdup said.

“She didn’t have much luck in the straight, and was beaten only three lengths.

“I gave her a break after that and expected her to come back well, which she has.”

McDonald took Calgary Queen to the front soon after the start today, and the four-year-old mare responded strongly down the running to stave off recent Randwick Highway winner Sunrise Ruby ($7.50) and fellow Hawkesbury representative, Edward Cummings’ Sunborn ($16), who was brave after covering ground.

Calgary Queen, a daughter of Real Impact, was purchased by Zhongli Thoroughbreds for $50,000 at the 2019 Inglis Classic yearling sale.

She is the 10th foal of the Flying Spur mare and city winner Morton, whose dam Heat of the Moment was runner-up in the 1985 Group 1 Thousand Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield before subsequently winning the Group 2 Wakeful Stakes (2000m) at Flemington as a three-year-old.

Widdup has no doubt Calgary Queen will measure up to Saturday grade in town. From only seven starts, she has now won on three occasions and been placed twice.

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