SUNDAY: July 31, 2022: AS Hawkesbury’s leading trainer, it was fitting that Brad Widdup should finish his benchmark season with his only runner – and first at the Forbes Cup Showcase meeting – today.

Despite a lengthier float journey, Brad chose the popular annual meeting instead of the Bengalla Cup – both distances were nearly identical – for Free State to break back into the winning list.

And that’s exactly what the gelding did, although it was close at the end.

Ridden by Billy Owen, Free State ($5.50) prevailed over Moetta ($4.20), to whom he conceded 5.5kg, in a tight finish to the Ben Hall Bullet Benchmark 74 Handicap (1200m).

Kattegat ($6), carrying 62kg topweight, was just behind the pair in third place.

“I sent Free State to Forbes because I was looking for a firmer track for him (the race was run on a Soft 5 surface after starting out as a Good 4),” Brad said this evening.

“I have no doubt it made the difference.

“Whilst he ran last of seven runners when resuming at Goulburn on July 8, I had to run him on a Heavy 10 to get him going.

“But he wasn’t comfortable on that ground.”

Free State, who will turn five years of age tomorrow, has raced 18 times for three wins and six placings.

He broke through in a Gosford Maiden (1100m) in December, 2020 as a $1.50 hotpot and then won a Class 1 Handicap (1500m) at Goulburn last August, again when favorite (at $2.35).

However, he may not be in Brad’s stable much longer.

“Free State has done a good job, but it may be time to put him on the market,” he said.

Free State provided Brad with his 63rd winner of the season and 237th career victory.

In his fifth full year of training, his horses collected nearly $4.9m, well above last season’s $3.7m.

. Stable star Icebath will contest a 1000m trial at Warwick Farm on Friday as she nears a return to racing.

At this stage, the inaugural The Invitation winner at Royal Randwick last spring will resume at that track on August 20, in either the $750,000 Group 1 wfa Winx Stakes (1400m) or shorter Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m).

. Hawkesbury trainers won 176 races during the season, with Brad preparing nearly 36 per cent of them.