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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


SUNDAY: January 22, 2023: TWO winners at Kembla Grange yesterday and another two at Wyong today have brought up a century of winners for Hawkesbury trainers so far this season.

Hawkesbury’s leading trainer Brad Widdup and Royal Randwick trainer Michael Freedman’s second stable at the provincial track were successful at Kembla Grange, and it was a similar story with fellow Randwick trainer John O’Shea’s Hawkesbury base and Tara and Phil Vigouroux following up with wins at Wyong.

The weekend foursome also lifted to 16 the number of winners trained out of Hawkesbury so far this month, and the 100 mark has been reached with the season not yet half way through.

Widdup’s victory with Fudai at Kembla Grange was his 35th for the season, and his horses have earned just over $2.5m since August 1.

Fudai ($11), rather surprising odds considering he was coming off a last start city breakthrough in a 1900m Maiden at Canterbury on January 1, gamely edged out Spinpix ($13) and Portnoy ($6) in the Class 1/Maiden Plate (2000m).

He would have been unlucky not to have won as stewards reported he was held up rounding the home turn and in the early part of the straight.

The lightly-raced gelding’s victory gave Victorian jockey Lewis German an important breakthrough as he tries his luck for a time in the Sydney metropolitan area.

“Lewis comes out to Hawkesbury to ride work each Tuesday, and he rode Fudai perfectly to instructions yesterday,” Widdup said today.

“I will look for another suitable race in the coming weeks to enable the horse to chase a hat-trick, and then probably give him a let-up.

“He has had only seven starts and keeps improving.”

Michael Freedman’s Hawkesbury stable has now produced nine winners so far this season, with first starter Flying Destiny ($3 favorite) making a winning debut at Kembla Grange in the Maiden Handicap (1200m).

A $50,000 purchase for Darby Racing at Inglis’ Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association May yearling sale in 2021, the Flying Artie three-year-old had trialled five times; the first of which was at Randwick in May last year.

Freedman put blinkers on the gelding yesterday, and he did a good job after beginning awkwardly, then showing pace and gamely holding out Ovoid ($3.90).

Jockey Rory Hutchings was relieved to get this result as he missed out on Freedman’s first race winner from his Randwick base, Time To Boogie ($3.10 favorite), because he was overweight – and was fined $300 by stewards for his trouble.

John O’Shea’s Hawkesbury base claimed its sixth winner of the season when More Saintly ($5.50) broke through for his first win at only his third start, in the Maiden Plate (1600m).

Ridden by Chad Schofield, the Reliable Man three-year-old sustained a determined run from well back after being slowly away to overhaul the $4.20 favorite Bridget Wenlock, who took up the running and looked home entering the straight.

More Saintly was a $110,000 purchase at the 2021 New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka yearling sale, and looks capable of going on to better things now that he is getting up in distance.

Team Vigouroux made it five wins for the season and rounded off a good weekend for Hawkesbury trainers when Izfallingdown landed the Benchmark 64 Handicap (2100m) at $26.

The six-year-old mare belatedly did not begin her racing career until September 2021 as a five-year-old, and her co-trainers have done a terrific job with her.

She has now four races and been placed five times from 18 starts.

There was no fluke either about today’s victory as Izfallingdown drew the outside barrier in a field of 10, began to race keenly passing the winning post the first time and then raced wide for the remainder of the race.

Ridden by Jess Taylor, she outgamed Brave Angel ($5.50) and Endorphins ($3.90).

Izfallingdown had been placed over 1600m at Canberra at her previous start on January 11, and relished the step up to a middle distance today.

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