SUNDAY: November 13, 2022: THE Max Lees Medal and the Max Lees Classic!
Hawkesbury’s leading trainer Brad Widdup can lay claim to an unusual double – and a special one at that.
Widdup last season won the medal, initiated by Newcastle Jockey Club in honour of the legendary Newcastle trainer who passed away in 2003 and awarded to the trainer with the best strike rate at Broadmeadow meetings each season.
Then he topped that off by also winning the Max Lees Classic (900m) for two-year-olds at yesterday’s $1m The Hunter meeting.
Hellbent filly Fire Lane ($13), ridden by Jay Ford, landed Newcastle’s feature two-year-old event in a tight finish from $4.60 favorite Cylinder and Line Of Law ($6).
It was Ford’s 14th winner for Widdup, who gained his 20th success of the season to date.
Such has been Fire Lane’s improvement in the last couple of weeks that Widdup took her to Newcastle yesterday confident she would acquit herself well.
‘She has always shown ability in her work, but a fortnight ago I would not have thought she would be ready to begin her career in the Max Lees Classic,” Widdup said today.
“But after she trialled nicely at Warwick Farm on November 4 (narrowly beaten in an 800m heat), we had the option of the Newcastle race at set weights and penalties or an 1100m 2YO Maiden Handicap at Rosehill Gardens on Wednesday.
“When Fire Lane came up with a decent alley at Newcastle, we decided to roll the dice and go there.”
Fire Lane fetched $330,000 earlier this year when offered at the Gold Coast Magic Millions yearling sale, and is raced by BK Racing & Breeding and their racing manager Ben Vassallo.
“We felt she was a really sensible filly, and had a good attitude,” Widdup said.
“She looked a natural running type.”
Fire Lane is the fourth living foal of the Charge Forward mare Heritage Lane, who raced only four times for one placing (at Ballina in 2015), and also produced the Doomben winner Asherla.
The $76,250 first prize she earned at Newcastle will go a long way toward gaining Fire Lane a start in the Magic Millions 2YO Classic (1200m) at the Gold Coast in January, but Widdup is not looking that far ahead yet.
“She appears to have pulled up well, but I’ll be guided by her progress in the coming weeks as to her program this preparation,” he said.