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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


THURSDAY: July 29, 2022: HAWKESBURY’S leading trainer Brad Widdup isn’t slackening off as the season winds down.

Widdup’s best of five full seasons since scoring with his debut runner Junglized at Canberra’s ACTON track on May 26, 2017, reached 62 winners today when The Halo broke through at Bathurst.

And he has further representatives on the final two days of the 2021-22 racing year at Rosehill Gardens (with the promising The Himalayas) and Kembla Grange on Saturday, along with further starters at the Forbes Cup Showcase meeting and Muswellbrook on Sunday.

Ridden by Jean Van Overmeire, The Halo ($2.70 favorite) comfortably took the Maiden Plate (1400m) at her seventh start, giving her trainer reason to be both delighted and relieved.

“She is the first horse I have trained for Tricolours Racing, and it was great to get a win on the board for them,” Widdup said this evening.

“They have also given me a rising two-year-old to train.

“The Halo has been a bit difficult to handle, but we are finally getting on top of her.”

A three-year-old daughter of More Than Ready and the now deceased Flying Spur mare Flying Gigi, The Halo fetched $130,000 when offered at the 2020 Melbourne Inglis Premier yearling sale Book 1.

Widdup’s breakout season, which has resulted in his horses netting prizemoney of just over $4.8m, included stable star Icebath racing home with the inaugural The Invitation (1400m) against her own sex at Royal Randwick last October.

The Halo was the trainer’s 236th overall winner, and his current 62 winners and prizemoney earnings easily eclipsed his previous best of 51 winners and $1.63m prizemoney in 2017-18.

Widdup is looking forward to a spring campaign with Icebath, who trialled on the Polytrack at Randwick last Tuesday.

The 1080m Group trial was initially scheduled for the course proper, and Icebath ran last of four runners behind Forbidden Love, beaten only one and a half lengths.

“She ran through the line strongly, and I was happy with her and how she pulled up,” Widdup said.

“I had no option to trial her on the synthetic track before she trials again at Warwick Farm next Friday so that she is ready to go back to the races next month.”

Widdup is planning to resume Icebath at Randwick on August 20 in either the Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m) or Group 1 Winx Stakes (1400m).

. It has also been a good season for fellow Hawkesbury trainer Mike Van Gestel, who keeps only a small string.

Van Gestel won his fifth race in 2021-22 when well-supported No Statement ($3.90 favorite) won the closer at Bathurst today, the Benchmark 58 Handicap (1100m).

Partnered by Canberra apprentice Damon Budler, No Statement was too strong for Arimathea ($7), who had led and kicked clear on straightening.

Van Gestel afterwards was very complimentary of Budler’s display, saying he was very patient on the Press Statement three-year-old and gave him a wonderful ride.

No Statement, who notched his third win, carried 59kg and conceded 3kg to the runner-up, so there was plenty of merit in his performance.

Van Gestel also started Titan Star ($11) in the same race, but he knuckled on jumping and was never a chance in finishing seventh.

Another Hawkesbury representative, Mitch and Desiree Kearney’s Lady Shenanigans ($4.40), was third.

. The Widdup and Van Gestel winners, along with Blake Ryan’s Wyong victory with Yes You Think, took the number of winners trained out of Hawkesbury this season to 173.

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