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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


THURSDAY: July 11, 2024: HAWKESBURY’S jockeys’ premiership is going down to the wire at the final meeting of the season.

A mere half a win separates three jockeys – last year’s winner Tyler Schiller, thrice Melbourne Cup winner Kerrin McEvoy and Sydney’s champion apprentice Zac Lloyd.

Schiller began today’s meeting narrowly in front of Lloyd (13.5 wins) and McEvoy (13), but lost a protest after “winning” the second race, the Weddings @ HRC Maiden Plate (1300m), and remained on 14 winners at the end of the day.

Lloyd regained a narrow lead when successful on Nightingale ($6) in the Lander Toyota F&M Benchmark 64 Handicap (1100m), and McEvoy’s victory on Tenniel ($2.90) in the HRC Motel Class 1/Maiden Plate (2000m) resulted in him joining Schiller on 14 wins.

Hawkesbury winds up the season on Sunday week (July 21).

Mike Van Gestel isn’t one of the “titans” in the training ranks - and nor does he want to be!

He’s happy doing his own thing with a couple of horses, and celebrated another excellent season when Titan Star ($14) gave him his 10th winner of the racing year at home today.

The long-standing Hawkesbury trainer was just as pleased for apprentice Molly Bourke, who won her 10th race for him when she got the 100-plus start gelding home in the Richmond Club CG&E Benchmark 64 Handicap (1100m).

Titan Star trailed the pacy Mr Bingo ($9,50) into the straight, gamely wore him down and then held off fellow Hawkesbury representative, Mitch and Desiree Kearney’s Lady Shenanigans ($9.50), who backed up well after racing at Warwick Farm only 24 hours earlier.

Van Gestel and the former country apprentice Bourke (now based at Royal Randwick) have formed a very successful association.

“I’m always on the lookout for an apprentice who is starting to ride winners, and noticed Molly when she was riding in the country,” Van Gestel said.

“Her first ride for me was on Titan Star when he ran third at Canberra over 1000m on November 25, 2022.

“When she first moved to Sydney, she mentioned one day that she was struggling for rides and was appreciative that I was putting her on my horses.

“I was very grateful for that comment, and it’s so pleasing to see her now really making her mark in town.

“Molly is a lovely young lady, and very bubbly.”

Not only did Van Gestel equal last season’s 10-winner tally, but it was also Titan Star’s 10th victory in as 106-start career which shows no signs of stopping.

He made his debut in the Max Lees Classic (900m) at Newcastle in November 2019, and aside from his 10 wins, has also been placed on 30 occasions.

Van Gestel has only two horses in work, and is chasing another city triumph with 12-times winner No Statement in the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1000m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

Of course, there’s no need to mention who will be the gelding’s rider.


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