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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


FRIDAY: September 1, 2023: HAWKESBURY’S leading trainer Brad Widdup fittingly “hit” a triple century career wins at Wyong today with a talented horse who races in the colours of a well-known Sydney cricket club.

Jockey Jean Van Overmeire wore the colors of owner, Sydney businessman Mike Gregg’s University of NSW Cricket Club, also known as the Bumble Bees, on impressive winner Jedibeel ($2.80 favorite) in the Class 1 Handicap (1100m).

Van Overmeire made a beeline for the winning post once he burst through on the inside on straightening and quickly put the issue beyond doubt, despite carrying 60.5kg topweight and conceding between 3.5kg and 8.5kg to his opposition.

Widdup, after doing plenty of hard yards to learn the trade, launched his training career at Hawkesbury in May 2017 by winning with his first starter Junglized on Canberra’s ACTON (synthetic) track, won his maiden Group 1 with the now retired Icebath in Melbourne last spring, and his 300th winner today was also his fourth in this new season.

He had never met Gregg when he took a call from him after winning the Listed Desirable Stakes with Akari at the Melbourne Cup carnival at Flemington in November 2019.

Widdup’s first horse for him was a New Zealand purchase named The Grundler, who at his third start won a Newcastle Maiden (1350m) in February 2021 at $15.

“I told Mike I thought Jedibeel would bring about $150,000 at the Inglis Classic yearling sale around the time The Grundler won,” Widdup said en route home this evening.

“I really liked the horse and took a punt and had to go to $190,000 to get him, and Mike was happy to pay that.

“He is a good supporter of our stable, and very pleasing to see him having such success with Jedibeel.

“Being a stallion, I have had to be patient with him and that’s why he has raced only five times (for two wins and three placings).

“He has been beaten by a couple of pretty smart horses (including at Kembla Grange recently the unbeaten Dancing Alone, who makes her city debut at Royal Randwick tomorrow), and didn’t really know what he was doing.

“Jedibeel was good today carrying a big weight, and there’s a bit of x-factor about him.

“We will probably look for a suitable midweek race in town next.”

Jedibeel’s breeding – by Cox Plate winner Savabeel from the O’Reilly mare Starry – suggests he might stay, but his trainer understandably is in absolutely no rush to extend him past sprint trips.

“I had some genetic testing done, and it showed he is a 1000m to 1200m horse,” Widdup explained.

“On that basis and the way he is racing over these shorter trips, why try to change him?”

Widdup’s 300th career success came on top of gaining another feather in his training cap when Icebath last night was named NSW Provincial Champion of the Year.

. Fellow Hawkesbury trainer Mike Van Gestel was also in the winning list at Canberra today on the synthetic track with his “iron horse” Titan Star ($10) in the Benchmark 55 Handicap (1280m).

The six-year-old was having his 85th start – and his fifth in just over the first four weeks of the new season.

Kembla Grange apprentice Jess Del Frari claimed 2kg on the gelding, reducing his weight to 59.5kg, and never gave up, eventually overhauling $2.15 favorite Calmer Karma to post his eight victory (he has also been placed 21 times.

Titan Star also won on Canberra’ synthetic surface on August 18 before finishing fourth at Nowra last Sunday, and Van Gestel didn’t hesitate to back him up again.

“He eats, and eats and eats,” he said. “He is a sound horse and if I didn’t run him again, I would have to trial him.

“That’s the longest distance Titan Star has won at, and we’re having a lot of fun with him.”

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