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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


MONDAY: July 11, 2022: BRAD Widdup has been closely associated with feature race winners at Grafton’s July carnival – but never trained one himself.

Hawkesbury’s leading trainer now has the opportunity to do so with his first runner at the track when he saddles Surreal Step in Wednesday’s $150,000 Listed Grafton District Services Ramornie Handicap (1200m).

And he has called on former Hawkesbury acquaintances, multiple Group 1 winning trainer Noel Mayfield-Smith and wife Emma, who relocated to Coffs Harbour last year, to help out by accommodating the horse for the Jacaranda City’s time-honoured sprint.

“We’ll travel north tomorrow, and stable Surreal Step with Noel before completing the short trip to Grafton on Wednesday,” Widdup said this evening.

Widdup, enjoying a breakout season with 59 winners so far and record prizemoney earnings of just over $4.7m, looked after 2001 Grafton Cup winner Desk Top Lover when based in Brisbane with trainer Bill Mitchell.

Then after moving back to Sydney and being trainer Peter Snowden’s right-hand man, he also looked after successive Ramornie winners Pinwheel (2010) and Jerezana (2011).

“I’ve been to Grafton many times, and also took horses there for other races when working in Brisbane,” Widdup said.

“I’m looking forward to going back there with my own runner.

“The Ramornie has been Surreal Step’s target since he won the At Sea (1100m) at Randwick in late May before finishing a close fifth in the June Stakes (1100m) there on June 11.

“I wanted to either trial or give him a jumpout leading up to the Ramornie, but the rain washed both out.

“I’m not too concerned however as Surreal Step isn’t a robust horse, and is ready for the Ramornie.

“And it’s a bonus that he handles rain-affected ground.

“Drawing the inside barrier today was good news, and Jean Van Overmeire (who has had only two rides at Grafton) has been booked.

“He rode eight winners for me recently in a brief period, and it wasn’t so long ago he was landing Saturday winners in town.

“Jean is a good jockey, and I’m pleased to have him aboard.”

Surreal Step joined Widdup’s Hawkesbury team this preparation, and has collected prizemoney at all four starts, including a first-up third in the Listed Hawkesbury Rush (1100m) at his home track’s Saturday stand-alone meeting on April 30.

. Fellow Hawkesbury trainer Terry Croft, no stranger to the Grafton carnival either, has runners on both Showcase days (Wednesday and Thursday).

He has accepted with Our Fox (Mikayla Weir) in the Class 2 Handicap (1100m) and second emergency Lady Lucilla in the F&M Class 2 Handicap (1100m) on Wednesday, and Gallic Fox (Van Overmeire) in the Springboard To Fame 2YO Plate (1200m) on Thursday’s Cup program.

Croft won Grafton’s Big Maiden with Catseye Surprise in 2013.

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