SUNDAY: February 13, 2022: A Newcastle double and a splendid return by stable star Icebath.

Hawkesbury’s leading trainer Brad Widdup had plenty to be pleased about as his Saturday double lifted him to 31 winners in just over the first half of the season, along with Icebath setting herself up to chase autumn riches – and hopefully a deserved Group 1 breakthrough.

Brad teamed with jockey Alysha Collett to score with Cross The Rubicon and Zalini at Newcastle, whilst Icebath, stymied by a wide barrier and strung out field, did well to finish sixth at her first weight-for-age test in the Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick.

Collett has been the trainer’s most successful rider to date this season, bringing home eight winners for him.

Brad’s Newcastle double – his fifth duo on the same day this season – took his 2021-22 prizemoney tally to almost $3m and overall to nearly $12m.

Cross The Rubicon ($6) and Zalini ($3.10 favorite) each broke through; the former in the Maiden Handicap (1200m) and latter in the 3YO & Upwards Maiden Plate (900m).

Both are newer additions to the stable; the former having her second start since joining Widdup’s Hawkesbury team, and Zalini her third.

A $200,000 Magic Millions yearling purchase in 2019, Dissident four-year-old Cross The Rubicon was racing for the sixth time and followed up a debut placing for her new trainer in an 1100m Maiden at Wyong on January 23.

The well-named Cross The Rubicon (a daughter of Trinity River and Rubicon is a river in Italy) carries the same Lustre Lodge Thoroughbreds colours as Nags To Riches, who was Brad’s opening winner of the season on the Kensington track on August 4 last year.

“We won three races with Nags To Riches, but she had problems and was retired early,” Brad said today.

“This mare (Cross The Rubicon) has kept improving, and I was pretty confident she would run well yesterday.

“I expected Zalini to also be hard to beat, and she did a terrific job overcoming a wide run from an awkward draw with the rail 10m out, and found the line strongly.

“There is further improvement in her for sure. She is fine in her work at home, but is still learning what it’s all about on racedays.”

Brad rekindled an earlier association with former successful Sydney jockey and now retired trainer Kevin Moses, for whom he was foreman for several years in the early 2000s and was there when No Wine No Song won the 2008 Sydney Cup at Randwick.

Moses purchased the Nicconi three-year-old for $150,000 at the 2020 Inglis Melbourne Premier yearling sale, and put together a syndicate which includes his wife Jenny and another former successful Sydney jockey Neville Voigt.

Moses trained Zalini for her first start when fifth to Gleneagles in a 2YO Maiden Plate (1000m) at Hawkesbury last April, and handed her over to Brad for her next and current preparation.

Whilst Brad is looking forward confidently to winning more races with the lightly-raced pair, he couldn’t hide his delight with Icebath’s first-up performance in the Apollo.

“Icebath doesn’t have much luck with barrier draws in these big races (she drew the outside in both runs at the end of her last campaign, and from the outside yesterday),” he said.

“It makes it very difficult, as she had to go back to get some cover.

“Her sectionals showed what a good run it was. I was very happy with her, and so was her rider Kerrin McEvoy.”

Icebath has pulled up well, and is likely to start next on Saturday week, again at Randwick, against her own sex in the Group 2 Guy Walter Proven Thoroughbred Stakes (1400m).

Whilst the Group 1 wfa Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) on the same program is another option, Brad isn’t keen to take Icebath up to 1600m second-up, especially with a big autumn program ahead of her.