By Brad Gray
Brad Widdup has only ever known horse racing. That’s not about to change as the highly-regarded horseman recently took out his trainer’s licence after spending the best part of a decade with Darley, now known as Godolphin.
Widdup was approached by Damion Flower, the managing owner of Jadeskye Racing which operates out of Hawkesbury’s Platinum Park base, to take on the role as head trainer and the offer was simply too good to turn down.
Left: Brad Widdup (Bradley Photographs)
“I’ve been with horses all my life and had a strapper’s licence at 15. I’ve always been in the industry and have never had a different job. Once you get involved it’s very hard to leave it. I’ve never even thought of a life outside of racing,” said Widdup, whose father Pat, is an Albury-based trainer.
“I didn’t know Damion at all but I went and saw him and Platinum Park which is a pretty amazing setup. Not only that, Damion is a big yearling buyer. I really liked the structure of it all and how it operated.
“He was also the first one to buy into The Everest. He looks outside of the box and although we might not have a runner this year, hopefully we’ll have something good enough next year. It’s got the prizemoney attraction but in time he thinks it could be a stallion-making race so he got on board straight away. He is trying to find a horse now that will fill his slot this year.”
Widdup, who had his feet under the desk on May 8, currently has 14 horses under his care but expects that number to grow to 20 by next week.
“I’m pleased with everything so far and we are slowly getting the numbers up,” Widdup said.
“We can hold 33 here so I’d love to get to that number eventually. I don’t want to be a small trainer and I didn’t want to be a private trainer either. I told Damion I didn’t want to be a private trainer and he was happy with that, saying it was what he wanted anyways. He is very optimistic and really backing me. Hopefully we can get some results now.
“I’ve also got one for Dynamic Syndications. Damion has the likes of Neil Werrett, Max Whitby and a host of other influential owners involved with his horses.”
Most of Widdup’s stock are two-year-olds, with Junglized likely to be Widdup’s first runner next Friday followed by All Too Hard youngster Zegota who impressed in winning a recent Warwick Farm trial.
“We’ll be nominating Junglized at Canberra and the following Thursday (at Gosford) I’ll have another two-year-old named Zegota so they’ll probably be my first two runners, all going to plan.”
“Zegota’s trial was in slow time but she seems to be a running little filly and is ready to go to the races.
“I’ve already tipped out Manipulate and a So You Think filly (Ridicule) that trialled the other day who I think is pretty smart. I want to start afresh with them.”
Exciting chestnut filly Acqume, who finished a narrow second to subsequent Group Two Todman Stakes-winner Gunnison on debut, is now also under the care of Widdup.
“Acqume is back and in her second week of work at the stable and looks well. She’s a nice Sepoy filly. There is another filly here called Za Zi Ba, who is only a small All Too Hard filly, but she has ability too. There is plenty of quality here. Damion does his homework.”
As far as older horses go, frustrating five-year-old gelding Zabeelions is one of the few to call Platinum Park home while three-year-old Suspenders, formerly trained by Peter and Paul Snowden, will join him shortly.
“You need a couple of older horses to get the stable going. Zabeelions is only a lightly-raced Zabeel so we’ll give him a go. He is one of those tricky horses but in most people’s stables he is probably their best horse so you can’t take too much for granted.”
Left: Widdup speaking to Thomas Huet for Godolphin (Bradley Photographs)
You’d be hard-pressed finding a better credentialed understudy than Widdup prior to taking the leap to train under your own name, with his finger prints all over Australian racing from training operations to legendary horses.
“I strapped Circles Of Gold and she won the (1995) Australian Oaks for Brian Smith and she went on to be the mother of Elvstroem and Haradasun. Then at 21 I became a foreman at Rod Craig’s and he had four horses in the stable and one of them was Intergaze who ended up winning over three million,” recalled Widdup.
“Then I moved again when Peter Moody was going out on his own. Liam Birchley and myself went up to Brisbane and I worked under Liam and as Billy Mitchell’s foreman. I was up there for four years before Liam went out on his own and Billy shut the stable down as he was opening in Melbourne so I came back to Sydney.
“I worked for Graeme Rogerson for 10 months then went to Kevin Moses and was with him for four and half years. We were in the top ten in Sydney for the entire time I was there and we only had 30 in work. Then when John Hawkes left Ingham’s they advertised for an assistant trainer there and I got the job with Peter Snowden. He left and I stayed on with John (O’Shea) and now we’ve left at the same time.
“They were all stepping stones. You just keep learning your trade. I always tended to stay three or four years wherever I was. I wasn’t there for two minutes.”
Widdup has worked with some star gallopers but has the fondest memories of eight-time Group One winner Intergaze.
“Intergaze was a magnificent horse and the one I keep recollecting how good he was. I don’t think people realise how good he actually was. He was unbelievable and his record could have been ever better if not for running into some great horses.”
Left: Intergave holds a special place in Widdup's racing memories
“In my time at Crown Lodge, Beaded was a favourite. She was such a tough little thing and went from a maiden to a Listed winner pretty quickly and just kept improving until she finally won a Group One which was fantastic. Mental was another one. He only had a handful of starts in Australia before going overseas but if he stayed here he would have been a very handy horse.”
As far as adopting an approach to his training, Widdup is spoilt for choice but he is keen to carve out his own way of doing things.
“I’ve picked up a little bit from all of them over the years. There are some really good trainers I’ve worked with and I’ve been to all of the major carnivals, including overseas, so I’ve seen plenty of different styles but you never stop learning in this caper.”
“It’s very exciting to be taking out your own licence and especially with the stock I’ve been given. It’s a very good start, put it that way!”