Emerging trainer Brad Widdup has unwittingly found himself the centre of attention with a horse whose history he was unaware of when she entered his Hawkesbury stable.
Lovani was transferred to Widdup before Christmas and it has since emerged she was the catalyst for a wide-ranging doping scandal involving her Melbourne trainer Robert Smerdon and seven other licensed people.
The mare was withdrawn from a race at Flemington on October 7 when stewards suspected she had received an illegal race day treatment sparking the far-reaching inquiry.
She was subsequently unplaced in a race on October 18 and arrived at Hawkesbury before Christmas.
Racing Victoria issued charges against the eight people on January 10 which was the first Widdup knew of Lovani’s history.
“When I got her I didn’t know who she was. It was just a big thrill to have a horse from Kia Ora in the stable but I was oblivious to what was going on,” Widdup said.
“I was just happy to have a horse for such a respected owner.”‘
Lovani has had two barrier trials since she was relocated and pleased Widdup ahead of Saturday’s Group Two Millie Fox Stakes (1300m) at Rosehill.
“I did have her in the Benchmark 89 but it looked like she would get balloted out so we have gone for the Millie Fox,” Widdup said.
“It’s a hard race but I think she can be competitive. I’ve looked at the videos of her previous races and she has a bit of quality about her.
“She may not be up to the Group Ones but there are plenty of other races for her the next tier down.”
After many years working for major stables, most recently Godolphin, Widdup took the plunge to go out on his own last year, primarily with the backing of Damion Flower.
The well-known owner has invested in new premises at Hawkesbury and is expanding the operation.
Flower is the major owner of two-year-old Sandbag, unbeaten in two starts and hopefully on his way to next month’s Golden Slipper.
“He will have an exhibition gallop at Rosehill on Saturday and then head to the Skyline Stakes,” Widdup said.
“That will tell us if he is a Slipper horse.”