It was no aberration! Hawkesbury’s Brad Widdup kept his stellar debut full season going by training a weekend treble – all on different tracks.
His successes with debutantes Sandbar at Canterbury on Friday night and Sunfighter at Wyong on Sunday and consistent Aberration on the Beaumont track on Saturday lifted his tally to 27 since the new season began on August 1.
Widdup began training less than 12 months ago and a victory with his first starter, Junglized, on Canberra’s Acton (synthetic) track in late May set him on the path to four more winners before the 2016-17 racing year closed.
Clearly one of the State’s emerging trainers, Widdup has already won races on all four Sydney tracks and, once again, underlined his skills by preparing the two unraced youngsters to make successful debuts as well as getting former Godolphin four-year-old Aberration to break through for his new owners, Dynamic Syndications.
Widdup’s brother-in-law Christian Reith rode both Sandbar and Sunfighter, and Blake Spriggs had the mount on Aberration. Sandbar ($15) landed the 2YO Maiden Plate (1200m) at the Canterbury night meeting, making the first return on his $650,000 purchase price at last year’s Magic Millions sales.
In fact, Widdup had planned to try to qualify the Snitzel colt for last week’s $2m Magic Millions Classic (1200m) at the Gold Coast – but a pool mishap in November intervened.
“He slipped over at our property (Platinum Park) at Hawkesbury,” Widdup explained this afternoon. “It was nothing serious, but it put his preparation back a couple of weeks and we didn’t have the chance to get him to the Gold Coast. He lost a shoe in Friday night’s race, so it added merit to his performance.”
Sandbar was placed in both trials (at Hawkesbury on December 18 and Warwick Farm on January 4) in preparation for his debut. Sunfighter ($5.50), by landing Sunday’s 2YO Handicap (1100m) at the Wyong meeting (transferred from Scone because of the heat), became the first Australian winner for his sire, the Northern Meteor stallion Fighting Sun, who won his only two starts as a two-year-old in Sydney before injury ended his racing career.
Passed in at $67,500 at last year’s Inglis Classic yearling sale and later purchased privately, Sunfighter raced on the speed and got a winning break to hold off the strong finish of another debutante, $2.90 favorite Sunreel.
“The runner-up was a bit unlucky, but my colt made his own luck,” Widdup said. “I had been very happy with him leading into this race and was surprised he wasn’t favorite.
“The thing about these colts (Sandbar and Sunfighter) is that they are professionals. They have great attitudes and walk around the yard as though they are 10-year-olds who know all about the business.
“That is also a tribute to owner Damion Flower, who has a real knack of selecting and buying the right horses as yearlings.”
Whilst Widdup naturally was thrilled with the performances of his youngsters, he didn’t hide his delight with the last-gasp Beaumont win of Aberration ($6.50) in the Benchmark 73 Handicap (1350m).
“He’s not a big horse and doesn’t get a lot of work. I have to train him a bit unconventionally,” he said. “Aberration is a real trier and very genuine. I was probably more excited to see him win. Since Dynamic bought him, he has had five starts for me for a win, two seconds, a third and a fourth.”
Aberration, a well-named Lonhro gelding out of the mare Hallucinates, has overall raced 11 times for two wins and seven placings.
Widdup has spelled another of his two-year-olds, Witherspoon, who ran in last week’s Magic Millions 2YO Classic: “She already has some black type and will have a good spell,” he said. “I’m sure she will blossom and feel confident she has a good future.”
Fellow Hawkesbury trainer Noel Mayfield-Smith made a welcome return to the winner’s list at the Beaumont meeting, scoring with Ottamae ($12) in the Fillies & Mares Maiden Plate (1350m). The I Am Invincible three-year-old was having only her sixth start, and beat Birdsong ($4.40) and $3.30 favorite See Me Rock.
This was only her second run since resuming; having taken improvement from her first-up sixth to Al Mah Haha in a 3YO Maiden Plate (1100m) at Canterbury on January 5. Mayfield-Smith went to $145,000 at the 2016 Inglis Classic yearling sale to secure Ottamae.
Hawkesbury co-trainers Tara and Phillipe Vigouroux went close to clinching back-to-back Cowra Cups today with former New Zealander Uncle Sugar. Ridden by Mathew Cahill, Uncle Sugar looked the likely winner when he hit the front on straightening, but was overhauled in the closing stages by Illyrian ($12).
Uncle Sugar had won a 1000m barrier trial on his home track last Monday, and connections were confident he would make a bold bid to retain his Cowra Cup title.
Greg Ryan had the winning mount in last year’s race.