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  • John Curtis


MONDAY: September 20, 2021: IT might have taken Hawkesbury four-year-old Titan Star 30 starts to win two races – the latest at Nowra yesterday.

Understandably, though, both are special to Hawkesbury trainer Mike Van Gestel and his family.

Titan Star, a gelded son of Rubick, is the last foal of the unraced mare Sporty Spur, who died only a few months after giving birth.

“We purchased Sporty Spur (who trialled six times without facing the starter), on spec whilst she was carrying Titan Star,” Van Gestel said this morning.

“Unfortunately, we lost her in March three years ago from a sudden colic attack.”

Titan Star is raced by members of the extended Van Gestel family, and it took him 18 starts, after six minor placings, before breaking through in a Gosford Maiden (1200m) in January this year, with Rachel King aboard.

He had notched another four placings before greeting the judge again at Nowra yesterday; this time with another female jockey in the saddle.

Ridden by Winona Costin, Titan Star ($8.50) overcame a slow start to clinch a gutsy victory, narrowly defeating Miss Anticipation ($9) and $3.80 favorite Monte Di Fiori in the Class 1 Handicap (1100m).

Having won only the two races, Titan Star’s trainer is surprised he hasn’t won more.

“He is an easy horse to train, but has been frustrating because he has ability,” Van Gestel said.

“Titan Star has picked up a few little habits, and either jumps brilliantly or is slow to begin, and can overrace in the early and middle stages, as the stewards reported yesterday.

“He has become a real thinker, but I still believe we can win a couple more with him.”

Titan Star bounced back from an unplaced run in a Benchmark 58 Handicap (1000m) at the same track nine days earlier when he was also slowly away and then struck trouble just after the start.

However, his previous third in a Class 1 Handicap (1000m) at Muswellbrook on September 2 was an excellent pointer to his prospects yesterday.

He chased home Delexo (a subsequent winner at Kembla Grange last Thursday) and French Marine, who also won yesterday, at Armidale.

Van Gestel has three horses in work at Hawkesbury. Press Statement three-year-old No Statement (whose older half-sister Sakura Blossom is unbeaten from two starts in New Zealand, including a remarkable Hastings victory last Saturday after bungling the start), made a pleasing debut when placed at Hawkesbury on August 31, and six-times winner Charlie Chap is back in work after suffering a bleeding attack at his last run on his home track on June 13.

. Van Gestel is the ninth Hawkesbury trainer to be successful in the early part of the 2021-22 season, and Titan Star was the 22nd winner from the track since August 1.

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