Leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup has made an important gear change on Wheelhouse as he chases a “consolation” victory of sorts with the promising juvenile on his home track on Saturday.
Widdup has opted for winkers on the Pierro colt, whom Blaike McDougall will ride in the Ascend Sales Trophies 2YO Maiden Handicap (1300m).
The well-named Wheelhouse, the first foal of the Fastnet Rock mare Sailing By and a $600,000 yearling purchase, was narrowly beaten on debut by another first starter, the well-backed filly I Say Hello, in a 2YO Maiden Plate (1200m) at Newcastle on March 19.
Widdup has taken his time with the youngster and had planned a forthcoming interstate trip with him.
Those plans were scuppered when the Brisbane winter carnival was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, hence his decision to try and get a maiden victory with him on home soil tomorrow and then look ahead to next season.
“Wheelhouse is a beautiful colt, and I felt races such as the Sires Produce Stakes and JJ Atkins Stakes in Brisbane would have suited him,” Widdup said this morning.
“There’s no doubt he will be even better placed when he gets to 1400m and 1600m, and that’s why I have introduced winkers tomorrow to help keep him sharp at the 1300m.
“Depending on whether the Clarendon Stakes (which was to have been run at Hawkesbury’s stand-alone fixture on April 25 and increased to 1400m this year) is still run at a city meeting, I might give him a break after tomorrow’s race.
“He has done well since the Newcastle race, and hopefully we can get a win with him before he goes out.”
Along with Duty (Mounties Group Maiden Plate, 1300m) and Side Hustle (Lander Toyota Benchmark 64 Handicap, 1500m), Wheelhouse is one of Sky Racing analyst Paul Joice’s best bets at Hawkesbury.
Widdup, with 25 victories already on the board this season, will have divided loyalties between his home fixture and the opening day of The Championships at Royal Randwick tomorrow. He will start Akari (Tim Clark) in the Group 3 PJ Bell Stakes (1200m), and the talented filly also will race in winkers.
A brilliant Flemington spring carnival winner last November, Akari hasn’t recaptured that form so far this autumn, although she wasn’t far away (only a length from winner Asiago) in the Group 3 Kembla Grange Classic (1600m) on March 13.
Runner-up Shout The Bar subsequently won the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill Gardens last Saturday, but Widdup chose not to pursue an Oaks path with Akari and has freshened her.
“Hopefully the winkers will help coming back to 1200m,” he said. “Naturally, I’d like to see her get back into winning form, otherwise we will probably stop with her this time in work.”
Icebath, another of the trainer’s talented three-year-old fillies who finished an outstanding fifth in the Kembla Grange Classic as a $51 outsider, was to have raced at last Wednesday’s Rosehill program, washed out after only one race had been run.
She has been nominated for Wednesday’s Warwick Farm meeting, but Widdup is considering giving her a shot at the Listed South Pacific Classic (1400m) against her own age at Randwick tomorrow week on Day 2 of The Championships.
Widdup’s other Hawkesbury representative tomorrow is Islands (apprentice Brock Ryan) in the XXXX Gold Class 2 Handicap (1000m). Ryan’s 1.5kg claim will lessen the I Am Invincible filly’s weight to 53.5kg, resulting in her carrying 1.5kg below the minimum as she rises in class.
“Islands has been a bit disappointing this campaign, but ran on okay at her last run at Kembla Grange over 1000m on March 21,” Widdup said. “We’ll ride her conservatively again tomorrow and see if she can finish off, although I would have preferred this race to have been 1100m.”
Hawkesbury trainers are on a roll (18 winners in March followed by Terry Croft’s Gosford victory yesterday with Foxy Rocket) and have strongly supported their home meeting with more than 20 acceptors.
Jason Attard and Lucy Keegan-Attard have Psicopatico, Reiby Redex, Just Like Jessie and Reiby’s Regent running, and another husband and wife training partnership Mitch and Desiree Kearney has Chloebella Rose, Mandalong Roman, Mandalong Beyond and Candy Pants representing them on the eight-race card.
Other Hawkesbury trainers with acceptors include Mitch Newman (Debrief, Diva Bella and Miss Fortuitous), Noel Mayfield-Smith (Silent Agenda and On Angels Wings), Peter Green (Butch’N’Bugs and My Rock Singa), Rebecca Brewer (You Excite Me), Garry White (Also Cool), Edward Cummings (Gin Runner), Tommy Wong (Jin Chi Phantom), Brooke Somers (Celebrator) and Colin Besters (Minneapolis Miss).
The rail is in the TRUE position for tomorrow’s meeting, and the track this morning was rated a Heavy 8 following another 5.5mm of rain in the last 24 hours. The penetrometer reading was 5.67.
PAUL JOICE'S SELECTIONS
RACE 1: MADAM LEGEND, East Asia, Air To Air.
RACE 2: DERBARI, Chariots Of Fire, Lunar Rain.
RACE 3: WHEELHOUSE, Much Much Better, The Mediator.
RACE 4: DUTY, Pizzly, Ranges.
RACE 5: MOON PANTHER, Think Straight, Segrill.
RACE 6: AUXIN, Invincible Lad, Lesage.
RACE 7: VAN GIZ, Fast ‘N’ Forward, Estrado.
RACE 8: SIDE HUSTLE, Lady Legend, Tigeen.
BEST: WHEELHOUSE, DUTY, SIDE HUSTLE