“There was an area at Crown Lodge which was called ‘The Yards’,” he explained. “Horses which weren’t doing so well in a more conﬁned box went into The Yards.
“We wanted to do something diﬀerent here when we built the new boxes, and made sure they are spacious.
“That doesn’t make the horses go any faster, but we’re very proud of how they have come up. “We had the appropriate space to expand, and now it’s done.”
Widdup has just concluded another successful season, preparing 59 winners; averaging just over 48 per season in each of the six full seasons he has been training.
His last winner of the 2022-23 racing year, Travelling Kate at Canterbury on July 26, took him to within four of a career 300.
The “boy from Albury” has come a long way, although he wasn’t necessarily thinking of a permanent role in the racing industry toward the end of his school days, even though he grew up around horses. Widdup’s father Pat has been a long-time trainer in Albury, and the stables were in the backyard.
“I saw ﬁrst hand how tough things were for a country trainer, and I didn’t want to do that,” he recalled.
“First prizemoney back then was about $1100, and of course things have since changed dramatically. “Albury was the best place to grow up. School days were great and I liked sport.
“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school, and remember going to Narrandera to apply for a job in the railways.
“The recession had hit and there were about 300 blokes chasing the job, and you had to do an IQ job. Times were pretty hard.”
It took a phone call from Widdup’s brother Warren to lure him to Sydney – and it was the beginning of a long road which eventually led to him launching his own training career in the later part of the 2016-17 season.
“Warren rang one day toward the end of 1992 to say Sydney trainer Rod Craig (now retired) was taking a young horse north for the Ballina Bracelet en route to the Magic Millions, and needed someone to ﬁll in at the stables for a couple of weeks,” Widdup said.
“I had nothing on my plate, and hopped on a ﬂoat going to Sydney carrying a bag and a plastic bag. “I virtually never went home.”
Widdup stayed at Eclipse Lodge with Craig and when the legendary BJ (Brian) Smith took over, got his ﬁrst taste of Group 1 glory.
“Brian won the 1995 AJC Oaks with Circles Of Gold, who later became an outstanding broodmare, producing the likes of Elvstroem and Haradasun.
“I looked aper Circles Of Gold and travelled interstate with her to the carnivals.
“BJ had diﬀerent ideas and was always prepared to try something else. I watched a lot and picked up plenty from him.”
Widdup spent three years with Smith and, when he scaled back his team, rejoined Craig when approached to be his foreman at 21 years of age.
“Rod didn’t have a big team, and one of them was an unraced chestnut by Integra and it was easy to quickly take a shine to him,” he said.
His name was Intergaze, who won on debut at Rosehill Gardens, and went on to win another 11 races (eight of them Group 1s), and is still remembered for his giant-killing defeat of Octagonal in the champion’s farewell race (the 1997 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick).
Widdup saddled Intergaze as Craig’s daughter Nicole married the now Randwick trainer John Thompson that day.
He subsequently moved to Brisbane in 1999, helping run then Sydney trainer Bill Mitchell’s satellite stable.
The Brisbane stable also had Group 1 success, capturing the 2000 Doomben Cup with three-year-old Akhenaton, who remarkably had won his Maiden at Newcastle only two months earlier.
Off the track, Widdup also was a winner in even more special ways. He bought his ﬁrst house at 27 years of age and became engaged and later married Milissa, daughter of retired Brisbane trainer Fred Thomas.
The couple now has three children – sons Cooper and Hunter and daughter Maddi.
Aper Mitchell closed his Brisbane stable, Widdup went back to Sydney and joined Graeme Rogerson’s stable at Randwick.
He then joined fellow Randwick trainer Kevin Moses as foreman for four years, before securing a position as assistant trainer to Peter Snowden at Warwick Farm’s Crown Lodge (then owned by Ingham Bloodstock and later that year sold to the Godolphin operation).
Widdup spent six and a half years with Snowden and his son Paul (who managed the Melbourne stable) before father and son started their own joint training business, and then a further three years with John O’Shea.
During his time at Crown Lodge, Widdup was associated with more than 40 Group 1 winners until, aper nearly a decade with Godolphin, opportunity came knocking to begin a new chapter in his racing life – branching out as a trainer in his own right at Hawkesbury.
With a Group 1 triumph now tucked away, 70 boxes to accommodate his burgeoning stable and on the verge of a career 300 winners, Widdup is understandably looking forward to kicking oﬀ another season.
“We’ve got some promising horses who are now a year older, and a really nice crop of two-year-olds who, of course, are yet to begin their careers,” he said.
“Outstanding horses such as Icebath are very hard to replace, but we’ll keep working hard and see if we can ﬁnd another one.
“You never know what is around the corner in this game!”