WHILST Hawkesbury commenced the new racing season on the first day of August, the 2018-19 season was highlighted by close finishes in the jockeys and trainers' premierships.
Champion international jockey, Tommy Berry, was Hawkesbury's premier jockey for 2018-19 and although he didn't ride at the final meeting of the season, he had just enough in reserve to hold off late bids from both Jason Collett and Rachel King.
Collett and King each rode a winner at the July 14 fixture, taking them to 12 winners - but it wasn't quite enough to overhaul Berry, who rode 13 winners to land the premiership, completing a successful return from a Hong Kong riding stint earlier in the year.
Berry, one of the busiest jockey's on the metropolitan and provincial circuit, played tribute to the Hawkesbury track and facilities.
''The Hawkesbury course proper is consistently one of the best surfaces around and is a credit to the track team," said Berry.
"With the club's recent refurbishments to the jockey's room and facilities, it is a pleasure to ride there."
Father and son, Peter and Paul Snowden, always great supporters of Hawkesbury racing, are the premier trainers for the season.
The co-trainers also landed the premiership in another close finish. Their 12 winners gave them the title, with one more than Godolphin's James Cummings.
Sydney's leading apprentice Robbie Dolan also claimed Hawkesbury's junior riding title. He rode five winners during the season, with Mikayla Weir (three wins) finishing runner-up.
Hawkesbury produced 169 winners, among 28 trainers during the 2018-19 season.
Hawkesbury Chief Executive, Greg Rudolph, praised the efforts of local trainers.
"The number of winners spread across so many trainers, is testimony to the improving training facilities here, particularly since the commencement of training on the Polytrack, just over a year ago," said Rudolph.
Garry White was the first off, scoring with Royal Hootenanny on his home track on August 2 last year, and Brooke Somers wrapped up the season when she won with C'est La Vie at Cessnock on July 30.
October was the most successful month with 20 winners, followed by June (17) and September, December, April and July (16 each).
Brad Widdup for the second successive racing year prepared the most number of winners from his Hawkesbury base with 41.
Scott Singleton trained 18 winners, Tara and Philippe Vigouroux had a breakout season with 15, and White put the polish on 14 winners.
THERE was more than a touch of irony to Zoe Connally's first winner at Bathurst on July 29.
The rookie Hawkesbury apprentice was having only her third race ride when she scored on outsider Jonjo's Comet for the husband and wife training partnership of Mitchell and Desiree Kearney, to whom she is apprenticed.
The 18-year-old, who secured her licence only a fortnight earlier, won the Maiden Handicap (1208m) on the $19 chance, and her parents, Tom and Lisa, were on course to share in her memorable day.
Connally claimed 3.5kg of her 4kg allowance and Jonjo's Comet, after covering ground, had no trouble holding out another Hawkesbury representative, Tara and Philippe Vigouroux's Black Star Bowie, the $2.10 favourite.
One part of the irony arose from the fact that Jonjo's Comet had already "won" a race before losing it on protest.
He was first home in a four-horse 1600m Maiden Handicap at Kembla Grange on December 1, 2018 on the Spring Provincial Series program, but subsequently lost the race in the stewards' room.
Runner-up, I Arize's rider Grant Buckley alleged interference over the last 75m - and stewards concurred.
The other ironic item was that Connally holds "bragging rights" over her partner, fellow Hawkesbury apprentice Brandon Griffiths.
He rode Jonjo's Comet when the gelding lost on protest at Kembla Grange.
Mitchell and Desiree Kearney understandably were delighted to provide their apprentice with a victory so early in her career.
"Zoe has been with us for only a few months, and is a real hard worker," Mitchell Kearney said.
"She gained her licence at the Hawkesbury barrier trial session on July 15."
Connally had two rides that day, and won the opening 1250m heat on the Kearney-trained Louisville Lip.
LEADING Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup, ended closer to his century of career winners, when talented gelding
Jailbreak opened his new season account at Goulburn on Monday, with a horse he described as being a "nightmare".
Jailbreak ($2.70 favorite) broke through in the Maiden Plate (1300m), and his trainer, understandably, was a relieved man.
"He's got all the ability, but even though he won today still did a few things wrong," Widdup said.
"Hopefully now that he has broken through, he will go on with it.
"I've always had a good opinion of him."
Jailbreak was the highest-priced yearling of the progeny of then first season sire Rubick offered at the 2018 Magic Millions sales at the Gold Coast. A member of the Segenhoe Stud draft, he fetched $470,000 as Lot 160.
Widdup thought enough of Jailbreak to start him off in the Wyong 2YO Magic Millions Classic (1100m) last December, but decided to geld him when he didn't reproduce his excellent trial form (wins at Hawkesbury and Randwick) in his first four starts.
"He won another trial at Hawkesbury on July 15 after being gelded and then ran fifth at Canterbury nine days later," Widdup said.
"I put a nose roll on him today and dropped him back in grade to the country.
"I'm not sure if the nose roll helped, but what I liked was the way he stretched away in the last bit when he got the better of the runner-up (Aspect Ratio). That's what he had been doing in winning his trials."
Adam Hyeronimus had Jailbreak out smartly at barrier rise and ensured main rival Aspect Ratio ($3.20) didn't get away from him by pressuring him on straightening.
The pair had the race to themselves down the running with Widdup's three-year-old getting the better of the runner-up in the closing stages.
Jailbreak's stablemate Uprise, who finished fifth as a $2.30 favorite in the Maiden Handicap (1500m) at his first attempt at that distance, did not back up at Gosford yesterday.
Widdup is looking forward to more runners in the coming weeks, having started six horses at last Friday's Warwick Farm trial session (fillies Birdy and Darling Point were successful) and seven more young horses at the Hawkesbury trials on Monday, where another filly, Jokes, also was successful.
HAWKESBURY races next Thursday, with the running of the time honoured Polytrack Rowley Mile, the featured event.
Hawkesbury Race Club Chief Executive, Greg Rudolph, expects the race to be a pointer for the hopes of bigger Spring campaigns.
"This race has become a good starting point for some of the stayers aimed at bigger Cup races in the Spring and I expect we will see the same next week," he said.