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Invitation A Triumph For Widdup And Icebath

By Ray Hickson

Finally. She finally won a big one!

Trainer Brad Widdup did say that word after Icebath brought 12 months of hard luck stories and close calls to an end with a celebrated victory in the inaugural $2m The Invitation (1400m) at Royal Randwick.

A year to the day the mare won her last race – a Benchmark 78 – the five-year-old stood tall after connections had to endure defeats by the barest of margins in both the $7.5m Golden Eagle and $3m Doncaster Mile. Widdup always says races aren’t handed to you, but nobody would deny Icebath deserved it.

“It’s great to see. It has been a long wait, not only me but for the owners and staff,’’ Widdup said.

“Everyone is a part of it and it’s great to see. I can’t do anything about the weather, that’s one thing I can’t do (anything about). But she has been great. The whole preparation she’s been flying and I’ve been trying to keep a lid on it.

“I thought we were in for a good performance today if we could get the right run. Finally. It (has been the story of her career) and even early on in her two-year-old career, she was very unlucky there in a couple of those good races and it’s just fantastic to see her get a reward today.”

As Widdup alluded, it was supposed to be too dry and the outside barrier was supposed to make things too hard but with a gun ride by Kerrin McEvoy she descended on a classy field and ran out a clear 1-1/2 length winner over Rocha Clock with a long neck to Forbidden Love in third.

Favourite Entriviere was stuck wide in the early staged and Tommy Berry elected to make a move and sit outside the lead but she couldn’t sustain the run and finished fourth.

McEvoy, who turns 41 on Sunday, said he banked on there being a bit of speed on to allow him to ride Icebath to finish strongly and it worked out exactly as he hoped.

“Sometimes the barriers just force your hand. She’s been having no luck,’’ he said.

“Today was a case of getting the first half right, getting her into the clear and letting her rip home because she’s been finishing really well without much luck.

“Brad has done a great job with her and the whole team have kept the faith in this mare. She is a quality winner of that race, she’s done a great job.”

The win took Icebath’s prizemoney to over $3.3 million and Widdup said it was great for the mare’s class to be recognised with a major win but he’s still eager to chase an elusive Group race win.

From the moment The Invitation was announced Widdup was eager to tackle the race and while he had to wait until just a couple of weeks ago for the call up he said the win is very satisfying.

“It’s fantastic. It’s great for the team and she’s been great for us,’’ he said.

“This race came from nowhere, big money, and it’s fantastic. I’m over the moon for the owners and our staff. Twelve months is a long wait but I’ll take it every day of the week.”

Check out the replays and results from Royal Randwick on Saturday

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