Hawkesbury's emerging trainer Brad Widdup celebrated the new year by winning his first race at Royal Randwick on Monday - and, coincidentally, with a horse sold by his former employer Godolphin.
Widdup again showed his skills by preparing Lonhro four-year-old Witches ($6.50) for a first-up success in the Benchmark 70 Handicap (1200m). Keeping it in the family, Widdup’s brother-in-law Christian Reith produced a brilliant ride to get the mare home narrowly from $2.50 favourite Pirapala.
Third last approaching the turn, Reith got Witches away from the fence, then ducked back toward the inside in the straight, coming around front-runner and eventual third placegetter Uno Best’s heels to snatch victory in the shadows of the post.
Widdup only saddled his first runner in late May when Junglized gave him the perfect start by winning on Canberra’s ACTON track. He has now prepared 29 winners (24 this season) and Witches’ win means he has been successful on all four city tracks; a fantastic achievement considering the brief time he has been training.
Dynamic Syndications purchased Witches last year and gave her to Widdup to prepare. Although she had won only one race (on the Newcastle Beaumont Track in November 2016 in a 1200m Maiden Plate), she had been placed in both Sydney and Melbourne.
Witches had not raced since finishing third (under the Godolphin banner) to Coolcraft in a Kembla Grange Benchmark 70 Handicap (1300m) on July 22, in which Widdup finished fourth with Lunar Spin.
“Christian rode her a treat, and it’s great to win a race at Royal Randwick,” a delighted Widdup said after the mare’s tenacious first-up performance. “Dynamic has been a good supporter of mine, and we’ve had a bit of luck together.
“Corey Brown was very happy with her when he rode her in a trial at Hawkesbury last month (she ran sixth to Just Got Lucky in an 800m heat) and getting that from him gave me confidence. Witches is very honest, and we’ll let her go through the grades.”
Hawkesbury apprentice Chelsea Ings also began the new year on a winning note – but had to travel to Inverell to do so. Ings won the Class 3 Handicap (1200m) on Epic Decision ($4.40) for Gunnedah trainer Gavin Groth at the annual Cup meeting.
Following on from her Boxing Day success on Smart Attire at Wellington, she has now won 38 races (15 so far this season).