WEDNESDAY, September 20, 2023: BRAD Widdup knows all about Group 1 success, and today’s Benchmark 72 Handicap (2110m) at Warwick Farm was clearly a long way short of carrying major status.
But the thrill of winning the latter with Mr Bond, who made a successful return from a serious tendon injury, was just as special as the former.
Hawkesbury’s leading trainer and his staff have worked hard to get the now seven-year-old Darci Brahma gelding back into winning form after bowing his near fore tendon when runner-up in a Midway Benchmark 72 Handicap (1800m) at Royal Randwick on January 22 last year.
Fittingly, Kerrin McEvoy, who rode the then five-year-old that day, was also in the saddle today when $14 chance Mr Bond bravely struck winning form again, narrowly defeating Casual Connection ($9) and fellow Hawkesbury representative, John O’Shea’s recent Newcastle winner Condrieu ($5.50).
Mr Bond is raced by Brad’s wife Milissa and their close friend, New Zealander Mark Campin-Fraser, who sent him across the Tasman after placings at his first two starts in late 2020 to be trained at Hawkesbury.
Brad won three races with the former Kiwi from his first five Australian starts, and considered he had a handy stayer on his hands.
“When he was beaten at Randwick in that race in January last year, at first I thought he was a bit disappointing,” Brad said this evening.
“That was until we discovered the next day he had sustained a bad injury.
“The only thing we could do was give him a long spell with the hope that eventually we could get him back in racing trim.
“He roughed it, and I wanted to be sure when I looked at him that he had a good chance of making a successful comeback before bringing him back to the stable.
“It was 65 weeks until he raced again, and we did a lot of work with him on the treadmill when he came back to help him regain fitness after such a long time away from the track.
“Our staff have done a terrific job, and full credit to them.”
Brad gave Mr Bond three runs at 1600m in May and June to get him ready to step up to a middle distance, but again struck a problem.
“He got an infected leg, and I had to ease up to get him over that,” he explained.
“He didn’t race between late June and early August when we started him again at Warwick Farm over 1600m, and then he ran second over 2100m at Wyong and a close fourth (with 61kg) over 2000m at Hawkesbury.
“That was a great thrill to win another race with Mr Bond today, because he hasn’t been an easy horse to train.
“He is very hyper-active, and there wouldn’t be much point taking him interstate as I doubt he would settle in different surroundings.”
Brad’s success with Mr Bond was his eighth for the new season, and followed first-up victories with Ausbred Flirt and Left Field last Saturday at Randwick and Newcastle respectively.