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  • John Curtis


SUNDAY: February 21, 2021: IT was a day Blake Ryan and Kevin May will long remember.

The Hawkesbury first timers clinched memorable breakthrough training victories yesterday at Orange; Ryan with his inaugural runner Divine Future and former jockey May with a filly (Messina Magic) who has only just joined his stable.

And the pair’s successes highlighted a “fab four” for Hawkesbury trainers, with Brad Widdup and Tara and Philippe Vigouroux also getting in on the action, each bookending the Newcastle program.

Widdup won the opening event, the Provincial & Country Maiden Handicap (1200m), with the pacy Calgary Queen ($6) and Team Vigouroux clinched the last, the Benchmark 68 Handicap (1200m), with $21 chance Lettre D’Amour.

The four winners continued to build the momentum of Hawkesbury trainers since the beginning of the year; 24 winners having been prepared out of the provincial track in under two months.

Ryan, the son of one of Sydney’s leading trainers Gerald Ryan, described winning with his first starter Divine Future as a “massive thrill”.

Ridden by Robyn Freeman-Key, the three-year-old filly justified her short quote in defeating Flying Honour ($8) and Our Johnnie ($61) in the Maiden Handicap (1280m).

Ryan is no stranger to Hawkesbury, having spent two years there managing his father’s then second stable at Platinum Park.

Now he is next door with multiple Group 1 winning trainer Noel Mayfield-Smith.

“I have leased 12 boxes from Noel, with an option to increase that to 20 when I can build my numbers,” Ryan said this morning.

“At present, the only other horse I can take to the races in the near future is the five-year-old mare Oksal (a four-times winner), and I also have an unraced two-year-old in work.”

Ryan has had an excellent grounding to succeed in his new career, having learned the game under the guidance of his father, who now trains in partnership with Sterling Alexiou at his Rosehill Gardens base.

An accomplished horseman, Ryan has built his profile over the last few years preparing young horses for the annual Inglis Ready2Race sale.

“I’m 34 now, and figured it was time I did something for myself,” he said.

“Obviously, I know Hawkesbury well and it’s great to be back here, especially now being able to use the Polytrack.”

Divine Future joined Ryan’s Hawkesbury team three weeks ago, and his victory with her yesterday brought back memories.

“Dad and Sterling sent her to me as she is a quirky filly whom they felt would be better suited away from a big city stable,” he explained.

“She is still a bit immature and also not strong yet mentally, and taking her to Orange was all about getting a win and helping her to gain confidence.

“She is raced by a great bunch of blokes, and it was terrific to win for them along with gaining a BOBS bonus.

“We have had a long association with the family of Divine Future (a daughter of Panzer Division and Future Reward).

“Dad trained this filly’s grandmother Future Impact, and also her progeny Bright Future and Future Reward.

“I remember taking Bright Future to Orange in December 2015 to also win his Maiden.”

Expatriate Englishman called time on his riding career a couple of years ago to take up training, explaining it had been virtually a lifelong passion after initially becoming a jockey simply because he was able to.

“I first came to Australia soon after the turn of this century and worked at Rosehill for Tim Martin when he had the top sprinter Exceed and Excel,” he said.

“But it was a bit young and got homesick, but decided to give it another try in 2008.

“My wife and then two-year-old son left England with $500. It was a big gamble but it has paid off.

“There is no country like Australia. I would never have been able to get the opportunity to train in England.”

May rode work for leading trainer Chris Waller and later formed a good partnership at Hawkesbury with Scott Singleton, who has since moved to Scone.

“I’ve had a few placings and to break through yesterday with Messina Magic was fantastic,” he said.

“It was rather ironic how I got her. I was training a youngster by Headwater and had high hopes for him, but the owner sold him to Hong Kong for good money.

“I didn’t want to lose him, but he gave me this filly as a replacement.

“She has been with me since mid-January, and I was confident she would run well yesterday as she had done everything right.”

With Ken Dunbar aboard, Testa Rossa three-year-old Messina Magic ($4.80) landed the Maiden Plate (1600m) at her sixth start, relegating Brave Maddie ($26) and $1.60 favorite Who’s Tinny to the minor placings.

Brad Widdup took three horses to the races yesterday, and whilst clinching his 16th season winner, also went close to achieving a perfect outcome.

Aside from winning at Newcastle with Real Impact filly Calgary Queen, a $50,000 2019 Inglis Classic yearling sale buy, he almost clinched a city hat-trick with Vulpine (just nabbed by Andermatt in the opening Rosehill Gardens event) and later Lady Tavista was a close second in the Class 1 Handicap (1300m) at Newcastle.

Widdup considers Chinese-owned Calgary Queen to be a progressive filly as she was racing for only the third time yesterday, and is confident she will measure up to at least midweek city grade.

Classy stablemate Icebath will continue her Group 1 Coolmore Classic preparation in the Group 2 Guy Walter Proven Thoroughbreds Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

Tara and Philippe Vigouroux have had considerable success over the years, especially with mares such as Enigami (now 10-year-old) and Lettre D’Amour (6yo), and the latter again did the job for them at Newcastle yesterday.

Ridden by Winona Costin, Lettre D’Amour belied her lengthy odds to score in all-roughies’ finish.

Her number 13 saddlecloth certainly wasn’t unlucky as she wouldn’t surrender, fighting off $51 chance Trophies Galore to post the seventh win of her 35-start career.

Regardless of the fact Lettre D’Amour was going from country to provincial class, her odds were surprising considering she was narrowly beaten with 60.5kg at her previous start at Dubbo and dropped 4kg yesterday.

The daughter of Foreplay was one of Hawkesbury’s first two winners (Bartandthequeen for Terry Croft was the other) at the Forbes Cup meeting on August 3.

HOOFNOTE: Neither Blake Ryan nor Kevin May will forget their breakthrough training triumphs for another reason.

May had car trouble on his way home from Orange, and contacted Ryan, who under the “old mates act” called in at Lithgow to pick up May’s wife, his filly and a stable pony who accompanied Messina Magic, and returned them safely back to Hawkesbury.

It was late in the evening when May finally arrived home, greatly appreciative of fellow trainer Ryan’s assistance.

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