Hawkesbury trainer Matthew Vella barely had time to catch his breath on Monday – but his busy schedule was well worth it.
Vella won the opening barrier trial with Special Date at his home track at 8.45am before heading off to Bathurst races, where he also won the first race with the unusually-named Whitchety Grub. In the process, he equalled last season’s training benchmark of six winners.
Vella, one of the best-known horse breakers, began training in 2014 and prepared his first winner Bay Truffle at Orange in November that year.
Whilst he never has a big team of horses in work, his burgeoning association with prominent breeder-owner Sir Owen Glenn, who purchased Glenn Haven Horse Farm adjoining Hawkesbury Racecourse, has seen him have another successful season and put him on the verge of setting a new personal benchmark before the 2019/20 racing year ends on July 31.
Five of Vella’s six winners so far this season have been for Sir Owen Glenn (Special Date twice, Solid Foundation, Blaze A Trail and Whitchety Grub).
Criterion youngster Blaze A Trail, a first-up winner for Vella at Hawkesbury on June 7, has been nominated for a 2YO Handicap (1500m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Jockey Mitchell Bell was an integral part of Vella’s successful day, and became the trainer’s most successful rider with five of his 20 triumphs. He was aboard Special Date in her trial victory, and then went to Bathurst to win the Maiden Plate (1400m) for him on Whitchety Grub ($3).
Bell put the Wandjina filly in the box seat at leader Jay’N’ Jay’s ($3.90) heels, then hit the front on straightening and bravely fought off a determined challenge from another Hawkesbury representative, Mick Attard’s First Fleet ($21).
Whitchety Grub, the fourth foal of Encosta De Lago mare Ice Crème (who won two races on the Kensington Track in 2011 for Gai Waterhouse), was having only her second start for Vella after beginning her career with co-trainers Waterhouse and Adrian Bott.
“Sir Owen names all his horses, but I’m not sure the reasoning behind how he named this filly,” Vella said. “I’m sure she doesn’t fancy wet tracks, and would like to get her on a dry surface, but that doesn’t look like happening any time soon.”
Fellow Hawkesbury co-trainers Tara and Philippe Vigouroux are also enjoying another excellent season. Five races after Whitchety Grub’s win, Team Vigouroux made it a good day for Hawkesbury when successful with Lettre D’Amour ($9) in the Benchmark 66 Handicap (1200m).
Lettre D’Amour (Winona Costin) stalked $2.50 favourite Stoked in the run and forged clear in the closing stages to defeat Acton Shale ($3), who just edged out the former for second placing.
Lettre D’Amour, a five-year-old daughter of Foreplay, clinched her fourth win from 24 starts, and she has also been placed on seven occasions. It was Team Vigouroux’s 11th winner this season, following on from a best 15 last season.
The Hawkesbury double boosted the number of winners trained at the track so far this season to 121.