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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


THURSDAY: October 27, 2022: A change of luck after barrier draw chaos yesterday flowed on to Gosford today for Hawkesbury’s leading trainer Brad Widdup.

And he’s hoping it holds when Icebath chases an elusive Group 1 victory at Flemington on Saturday in the $1m Empire Rose Stakes (1600m).

Icebath initially drew barrier 18 yesterday morning for the fillies and mares’ feature until a human error was discovered and a redraw ordered.

This time it was much better news and she drew barrier five, which naturally was great news for her connections.

The Everest winning jockey Craig Williams will partner Icebath, who is showing no ill effects from a tardy start which cost her any chance of successfully defending the crown she won last year when the second running of the $2m The Invitation (1400m) was held at Royal Randwick last Saturday.

“I’m not sure what happened,” Widdup said this evening. “Perhaps her run when second to Anamoe (subsequent Cox Plate winner) in the George Main Stakes at Randwick last month was harder than we thought.

“But she was bouncing around after last Saturday’s race and I’ve been very happy with her this week.

“Icebath is not showing any signs that she has had enough this preparation, and has arrived safely in Melbourne.”

After winning last year’s inaugural The Invitation, the mare drew the outside in a field of 14 in the Group 1 Cantala Stakes (1600m) at Flemington a week later and was edged out by Superstorm.

“Win, lose or draw, Icebath is going for a spell after Saturday,” Widdup added.

“She still has the autumn ahead and I would like to take her to Brisbane for the winter carnival next year.”

Buoyed by Icebath’s much better draw for the Empire Rose, Widdup claimed his 15th winner of the season with Sky Ace at Gosford today.

Son beat father when talented Newcastle apprentice Dylan Gibbons got Sky Ace ($7) up in the closing stages to beat his father Andrew on $81 roughie De Valera in the Benchmark 64 Handicap (2100m).

It was Sky Ace’s third victory from five starts this preparation, and his trainer is understandably delighted with the four-year-old’s progress.

“He was a bit difficult earlier in his career, but is much better now,” Widdup said.

“As a result, I have started to take gear off him, the latest being a tongue tie today.

“He did race in blinkers and a nose roll earlier, but doesn’t need them any more either.”

Sky Ace, a son of Sooboog and five-times winner Monaco Doll, is raced by his Summertime Thoroughbreds’ breeder John Cordina and races in the same colours as dual Group 1 winner (the 2017 Spring Champion Stakes and Victoria Derby) Ace High.

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