WEDNESDAY, November 1, 2023: SAME trainer, same pathway, same Group 1 assignment. 

Just a different horse and jockey. 

Hawkesbury’s leading trainer Brad Widdup is hoping it’s a case of déjà vu when he attempts to win the $1m Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on Saturday, for a second successive year.

Brad clinched a maiden Group 1 success with the now retired Icebath (Craig Williams) last year, and now he is pinning his faith in Ausbred Flirt to give him another major triumph.

However, Williams is border-hopping to Sydney on Saturday to ride in the $10m Golden Eagle at Rosehill Gardens, and Rachel King steps up to the plate at Flemington.

Brad is following an identical path with Ausbred Flirt to the formula he used last year with Icebath.

The inaugural 2021 winner of the $2m Invitation (1400m) at Royal Randwick for fillies and mares, Icebath couldn’t make it two in a row last year when ninth to Promise To Success.

But her trainer didn’t hesitate to back her up a week later, and Williams’ rails hugging ride produced a great result.

Ausbred Flirt stepped up in class in last Saturday’s The Invitation, and ran really well as a $26 outsider, finishing fifth to Group 1 winner Espiona, beaten only one and a half lengths.

“To finish as close as she did after not getting the best of runs in the straight showed she is worthy of having a crack at the Empire Rose,” Brad said this evening.

“She has pulled up well, so why not have a go.

“You have to be in it to win it.”

Ausbred Flirt, a five-year-old daughter of Maurice, has won five of her 14 starts and is in the best form of her career.

She burst between runners to win a Benchmark 78 Handicap (1400m) first-up at Randwick on September 16 before working hard from a wide barrier when runner-up to Renaissance Woman in the Group 3 Angst Stakes (1600m) there on October 14.

Renaissance Woman confirmed the merit of the form by finishing a close second to Zeyrek in the Group 3 Craven Plate (1800m) at Randwick last Saturday.

Brad, who has trained 15 winners this season to boost his career tally to 311, will have two runners at the Flemington carnival.

Ausbred Flirt and stablemate Fire Lane will be floated to Melbourne tomorrow night.

Fire Lane is also in good form, coming off a close sixth to Mumbai Muse in the Listed Brian Crowley Stakes (1200m) at Randwick last Saturday after a midweek Warwick Farm victory.

Her target is the Group 3 Red Roses Stakes (1100m) for three-year-old fillies next Thursday (Oaks day).