Experienced Hawkesbury trainer Garry Frazer wasn’t at all surprised by outsider Living Choice’s barnstorming Bathurst success on Tuesday.
A $21 chance, Living Choice (Grant Buckley) was the second widest runner on the home turn in the Benchmark 60 Handicap (1408m) and flew home to book-end the program for Hawkesbury trainers. Brad Widdup had won the opening event, the 1108m Maiden Plate, with $2 favorite Ikaba (Christian Reith).
And it could have been a Hawkesbury treble as Karen Outtrim’s Lugard Road ($10) was first home in the 1208m Maiden Plate, but lost the race in the stewards’ room to $1.75 favorite Cappella Magna. Frazer, on his way home from Bathurst, said having Living Choice gelded earlier this year had undoubtedly made a difference to his Husson five-year-old.
“He has come back with a better attitude, and that was reflected in his performance today,” he said. “I’ve always thought a bit of him, and considered he could make a nice stayer. He was placed twice over 1900m at Canterbury late last year.”
Frazer trains Living Choice for long-time client Kevin Bastian, and recalled how he met the now retired owner.
“Kevin was selling trucks, and I bought a horse truck from him nearly 10 years ago,” he explained. “A couple of weeks later I bought three horses for him at the Classic yearling sale at Newmarket.”
One of those horses was Misshiraz, a daughter of Secret Savings, who won five races (including four in town). Living Choice was having his 19th start and notched his third victory. He has also been placed five times.
When he broke through for his first win (in a 1200m Maiden at Nowra in October last year), he also produced a similar brilliant finish from well back to overpower his opposition.
Frazer said Living Choice had taken improvement from his first-up fifth to Isla Grace in a shorter Class 2 (1208m) at Bathurst on August 18. His surging finish on Tuesday relegated another Hawkesbury representative Cheeky Bella (prepared by Mike Van Gestel) into second placing.
Earlier, Widdup added to his impressive record since launching his training career with success with his first runner (Junglized at Canberra on May 26). Ikaba, a son of Red Element and raced by Anthony Gafa, who introduced Bloodstockauction.com, provide Widdup with his 12th winner (including two in town).
The three-year-old was having only his fourth start, and second for Widdup, after finishing third to Grand Finalist at Hawkesbury on September 2 over 1100m.
“His run was better than it may have looked that day as the winner ran record time,” Ikaba’s rider Christian Reith explained. “We were pretty confident about his chances today. He probably should have won easier, but got a bit lost when he hit the front. He can definitely take improvement from that.”