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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


SUNDAY: March 12, 2023: LEADING Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup has confirmed Fire Lane’s defection from the Golden Slipper Stakes at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.

The debut Max Lees Classic winner will not be an acceptor on Tuesday for the world’s richest race for two-year-olds.

Fire Lane was kicked behind the barrier by another runner and passed fit to start in the Group 3 Magic Night Quality over the Slipper course at Rosehill yesterday, but ran the worst race of her six-start career in finishing 11th to Steel City.

The Hellbent filly not only beat ruling Slipper favorite Cylinder in the Max Lees (900m) at Newcastle last November when both youngsters were having their first starts, but also beat Platinum Jubilee and Empire Of Japan in the 2YO Plate (1100m) at Royal Randwick in December.

Fire Lane subsequently finished a gutsy fifth to Skirt The Law in the Magic Millions Classic (1200m) at the Gold Coast in January and fourth to Cylinder in the Group 2 Silver Slipper Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill last month.

“That’s it for her for the time being,” Widdup said today. “She will go to the paddock for eight weeks, and certainly deserves the break.

“Fire Lane is a good filly and so tough, and has done a terrific job in her first racing campaign.”

Widdup began training at Hawkesbury in 2017, and his first and only Golden Slipper runner to date was Sandbar, who finished eighth to Estijaab in 2018, after providing him with a stakes breakthrough only five weeks earlier, in the Listed Lonhro Plate (1100m) at Warwick Farm.

Whilst he won’t have a Slipper runner this year, he still could be chasing Group 1 glory in the $600,000 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) on Saturday with promising three-year-old Ausbred Rising Sun.

Widdup has nominated the son of Maurice for both the Guineas and $750,000 Group 2 Alister Clark Stakes (2040m) at The Valley the same day.

“It’s a matter of covering our bases,” he said. “If we don’t get a start in the Rosehill Guineas, then The Valley race is a good alternative.”

Ausbred Rising Sun, currently at $26 with for the Rosehill race, has won two of his four starts, and at his latest appearance was an excellent third to Guineas favorite Pericles in the Autumn Classic (1800m) at Sandown on February 25.

Meanwhile, Widdup will be chasing another berth in the field for the $500,000 Polytrack Provincial-Midway Championship Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 8 when he saddles The Poacher in Thursday’s fourth Qualifier (1200m) at Gosford.

The Poacher, who has won four of his eight starts, has been improved by a first-up seventh to Parisal in a Benchmark 78 Handicap (1100m) at Rosehill on February 18.

Widdup already has qualified Phearson for the Final, courtesy of his home track victory in the second Qualifier (1400m) on March 4.

Phearson has not missed a placing in seven starts, and has raced four times for his Hawkesbury trainer, winning his last three.

“At this stage, I will probably trial and not race Phearson again before the April 8 Final,” Widdup said.

“He isn’t a big heavy horse and appreciates his runs being spaced.”

Widdup also could have two runners in the fifth Qualifier (1400m) at Kembla Grange on Saturday as he plans to nominate both Short Shorts and Ausbred Flirt.

The latter will carry a dual venue entry, also holding a nomination for the Group 3 Birthday Card Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill against her own sex.

Kembla Grange’s Qualifier is for provincial trainers only.

. Hawkesbury filly Premise continued a path to a possible ATC Oaks start by scoring again at Gosford yesterday.

A member of Randwick trainer John O’Shea’s second stable at Hawkesbury, the $90,000 New Zealand Ready To Run purchase made it two in a row when she took the Class 1/Maiden Plate (1900m).

Alysha Collett has partnered the lightly-raced Contributer filly in both her wins; the first also being at Gosford in a Maiden Handicap (1600m) on February 18.

O’Shea has taken his time with Premise, who has started only four times and has been entered for the $1m Group 1 ATC Oaks (2400m) at Randwick on April 8.

Her Gosford victory yesterday was the 127th winner trained out of Hawkesbury so far this season.

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