Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup is keen to give Saturday’s Rosehill Gardens winner Za Zi Ba her chance to clinch a black type victory at the same track on Saturday week. Widdup is awaiting the Racing NSW handicapper’s appraisal of her convincing Benchmark 78 Handicap (1100m) victory to decide her new Benchmark rating.
“Hopefully, that win will lift her rating sufficiently to get her a start in the Sheraco Stakes,” Widdup said. The $200,000 Group 2 Sheraco (1200m) will be run at set weights plus penalties, and Widdup’s four-year-old mare will have the base weight (54kg).
Widdup has done a splendid job with the daughter of All Too Hard, racing her 11 times for four wins.
He took over her preparation – when she had raced twice in town - after gaining his licence in April last year.
Widdup scored first-up with Za Zi Ba in a 2YO Maiden Plate (1100m) against her own sex at Wyong on July 25.
She has since also won at Kembla Grange (1200m F&M Class 1 Handicap) on September 23 and Canterbury (1200m 3YO Benchmark 65 Handicap) on October 4 prior to yesterday’s success.
Za Zi Ba had a 74 rating prior to yesterday’s win, where Widdup’s move to book talented Kiwi apprentice Sam Weatherley had a huge bearing on the outcome. Weatherley’s 2kg claim gave well-supported Za Zi Ba ($5.50) a decisive 8.5kg advantage over a gallant runner-up She Knows ($7), and she scored by nearly two lengths.
“Sam can certainly ride,” Widdup said. “Being able to use his 2kg claim was a bonus for sure.”
Widdup was confident Za Zi Ba would run well after a first-up sixth when a $3.60 chance to Puppet Master in a Benchmark 78 Handicap (1100m) at Canterbury on August 8: “She got squeezed out at the start that day,” he explained.
Widdup said he was thankful Za Zi Ba’s owners had decided to continue with her racing career after her three-year-old season: “She keeps improving,” he said. “There are some nice mares’ races in the spring and even next autumn.” Za Zi Ba was placed at Listed level last season when third to I Am Excited in the Darby Munro Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill on March 24.
Widdup had a breakout first full season of training with 51 winners in 2017-18 and has already made an impact in the first month of the new season, winning Saturday metropolitan races at Rosehill with three-year-old Sandbar (Listed Rosebud, 1100m on August 8) and Za Zi Ba.
Sandbar could have contested Saturday’s San Domenico Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill, but his trainer chose to wait for the $200,000 Group 2 The Run To The Rose (1200m) there on Saturday week.
“As it turned out, I’m glad I didn’t run him again,” he said. “I didn’t want him having two hard runs at his first two runs this preparation. Sandbar will gallop between races at Canterbury on Wednesday.”
Meanwhile, Widdup has spelled three-year-old filly Witherspoon following an unsuccessful Melbourne trip, being unplaced in the Group 3 Quezette Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield on August 18.
Fellow Hawkesbury trainers Tara and Philippe Vigouroux clinched their first success of the new season when staying prospect Whangamata scored at Newcastle on Saturday. The first leg of a treble for jockey Christian Reith – he nearly bagged four winners – lightly-raced Whangamata ($2.60 favourite) outstayed his rivals in the Class 1/Maiden Plate (2350m).
A four-year-old by Highly Recommended, a son of Fastnet Rock and 2010 Australian Easter Yearling Sale purchase who was trained in Melbourne by Peter Moody, Whangamata was sent to Team Vigouroux after two unplaced runs over 1200m and 1600m early last season in New Zealand. He was having his fifth run for the Hawkesbury couple and showed that he is capable of handling even longer distances.