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  • John Curtis


MONDAY: February 1, 2021: HE carries the colours one of Sydney’s best known cricket clubs, and hit his rivals for six at Newcastle today.

New Zealand-bred three-year-old The Grundler, having only his third career start, clinched a first-up victory in the Maiden Handicap (1350m) against his own sex at $15.

The lightly-raced gelding races in the gold and black colours of the University of NSW (UNSW) Cricket Club, known as the Bumble Bees.

But there was no bumbling about the ride of The Grundler’s jockey Alysha Collett, herself an expatriate Kiwi.

Collett rode the gelding patiently, settling him in fifth place and then made a winning move by not going wide on straightening, resulting in her saving ground and being able to come around the heels of the two leaders and challenge.

Vigorously ridden, The Grundler overhauled first starter Mr Severino ($3.30 favorite), who had made the running, with $31 roughie Timor Road a strong-finishing third.

Leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup landed his 14th winner of the season, and his third in the last 10 days, having scored with Vulpine at Canterbury on January 22 and Showtime Lady at Goulburn three days later.

He purchased The Grundler, a son of 2014 Listed Eskimo Prince Stakes (1200m) winner and dual Group 1 placegetter (2014 Randwick Guineas and George Ryder Stakes) El Roca, for a new client on the recommendation of NZ associates.

Widdup didn’t race The Grundler as a two-year-old and the gelding was unplaced at both starts on his home track as an early three-year-old before spelling.

“He is a very quirky horse who wasn’t doing anything right until I put winkers on him in a track gallop last week,” Widdup said this evening.

“It was the best I had seen him work, so I wasn’t totally surprised with his performance today.

“Whilst it wasn’t a strong race, it was good to get a breakthrough with him and I’m sure there is further improvement.

“Eventually he will be a blinker horse and will get over more ground.”

The Grundler owes his unusual name indirectly to the late American country music legend Kenny Rogers.

The UNSW Cricket Club changed Rogers’ famous hit The Gambler to The Grundler for their victory song.

. Widdup’s classy mare Icebath is ready to resume racing at Royal Randwick on Saturday week against her own sex in the Group 3 Triscay Stakes (1200m).

Last October’s narrow $7.5m Golden Eagle runner-up trialled for the second time this preparation in the sole 900m Group heat on the Warwick Farm course proper this morning, and came from last early to finish third to runaway winner Written Beauty, who has won four of her five starts.

“I was very happy with how Icebath trialled,” Widdup said. “The 1200m will probably be too short for her in the Triscay, but it’s a good starting point for her autumn campaign.”

Kerrin McEvoy has partnered Icebath in both her recent trials, but is unavailable to ride her on Saturday week and Widdup is yet to confirm a booking for the mare’s resumption.

Icebath’s autumn goal is the $600,000 Group 1 Coolmore Classic (1500m) against her own sex at Rosehill Gardens on March 13; the same course and distance as the Golden Eagle.

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