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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


SEPTEMBER 1, 2023: JEAN Van Overmeire, the State’s leading jockey for the first month of the new season, could have ridden at Royal Randwick tomorrow.

Instead he will be in action at the provincial fixture at Hawkesbury, where he has mounts in seven of the eight races.

Van Overmeire, who rode 20 winners in August (three more than Sydney’s champion jockey James McDonald), had an opportunity to continue an association at Randwick with Tintookie, on whom he won there a fortnight ago, but in consultation with his manager Tony Haining, decided to focus on Saturday provincial meetings for now.

“We had a couple of offers for Randwick, but going to Hawkesbury is part of a plan we have to outdo what Jean achieved in the three months of last season,” Haining explained this morning.

“He ticked off a bucket list item by going to Dubai and riding there last season.

“Jean was also in great form at the time he left Sydney on October 26. He had ridden 34 winners then, and we want to surpass that in the same period this season.

“We’re well on track to do that; and concentrating on the Saturday provincial meetings for the time being to continue establishing himself back here will certainly play a big part.

“Jean has a good association with Godolphin (his victory on Spacewalk in the Listed Bob Charley AO Stakes at headquarters in June was his 400th career success, and he also won a Group 3 on Parisal for the ‘Blue Army’ there the same day he scored on Tintookie), and things could change depending on what offers we get.

“But he is looking forward to heading to Hawkesbury tomorrow and hopefully continuing his winning form.”

Van Overmeire won races on nine different tracks during August, but so far hasn’t struck a blow in six rides at the two Hawkesbury meetings conducted last month.

He will undoubtedly be keen to correct that anomaly tomorrow as he starts a brief suspension on Sunday, incurred at Bathurst last Monday. He will resume at the Dubbo Gold Cup meeting on Sunday week should an attractive offer arise for the “Big Dance Eligibility” feature.

Van Overmeire’s bookings tomorrow are Manhattan’s and Uncut Gem for Hawkesbury’s leading trainer Brad Widdup (who also prepares Tintookie), State Of America (David Payne), Ballroom Bella (Gerald Ryan & Sterling Alexiou), Miss Ghent (Norm Gardner), Night Orb (Ron Leemon) and The Great Houdini (Greg McFarlane).

Van Overmeire, with 21 winners, is Widdup’s third most successful rider to date and, whilst the trainer will be at Randwick to saddle Tintookie (Josh Parr) for the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1100m), he will be keeping a close eye on proceedings at his home track.

Manhattan’s tackles the Ladies’ Day Thursday 9 November F&M Maiden Plate (1400m), and Uncut Gem the St Johns Park Bowling Club Provincial Maiden Plate (1000m).

Manhattan’s, a three-year-old daughter of Hellbent, is having only her fourth start and third this campaign, and Star Turn four-year-old Uncut Gem is resuming and has made a “habit” of finishing third.

She filled that position in all three starts at her debut campaign, and has also run third in two recent trials in preparation for her return.

“Getting up to 1400m tomorrow should suit Manhattan’s,” Widdup, whose now retired Group 1 winning mare Icebath last night was named NSW Provincial Champion for 2022-23, said.

“She was a bit slow getting away at Newcastle last time over 1250m and was beaten little more than two lengths, and before that was a close second at Kembla Grange at her first run back.

“Manhattan’s has drawn the inside tomorrow, and should be able to settle closer getting out to the longer trip.

“I was going to wait another week or so to kick Uncut Gem’s campaign off, but being a Provincial Maiden and also at home, it looked a suitable beginning for her.

“Jean (Van Overmeire) rode her in both her trials at Warwick Farm and Hawkesbury last month.”

Uncut Gem will race in a Hanoverian nose band for the first time, and has been working in it without any problems.”

. The rail is in the TRUE position for tomorrow’s meeting, and a “Soft 5” rating was posted this morning by course manager Kyle Cassim, with a penetrometer reading of 5.27. A total of 5mm of rain has been recorded at the track in the past seven days, but nothing in the last 24 hours.

The eight-race program begins at 12.40pm.

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