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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis

HOME TRACK AN ADVANTAGE TO REPEL NEWCASTLE CHALLENGE


FRIDAY: March 8, 2024: HAWKESBURY’S leading trainer Brad Widdup is banking on a home track advantage giving him an edge in tomorrow’s Polytrack Provincial-Midway Championships Qualifier.

In what is shaping as a Hawkesbury versus Newcastle contest, Widdup will saddle early favorite Short Shorts against the might of leading Novocastrian trainer Kris Lees, who has six acceptors and is likely to have five representatives.

“Short Shorts is in good form,” Widdup said this morning on the eve of the 1400m Qualifier for eligible provincial-trained horses only, which provides berths for the first two placegetters in the $1m Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 13 (Day 2 of The Championships).

“She likes her home track, having raced twice here twice for a win and a second, both over the same distance as tomorrow’s race.

“Short Shorts was runner-up to Sweet Ruby in a Benchmark 64 Handicap against her own sex in December 2021, and then at her next preparation easily won a Class 1 Handicap the following March”.

Alysha Collett partnered Short Shorts both times, and has the mount tomorrow.

Short Shorts has won both her lead-up trials over 1030m at Rosehill Gardens on February 3 and 1050m at Randwick 19 days later.

She led throughout and was never troubled at Rosehill before doing some work to sit outside the leader when scoring at Randwick.

Short Shorts is resuming tomorrow as she was 12 months ago when, also on the back of two trials, she trounced her rivals in a Kembla Grange Qualifier (1400m).

She then ran fifth to Spangler in the Final on a “Heavy 8” surface after making the running.

“Even though she won on debut at Newcastle in Maiden company on a heavy track, she doesn’t like that ground,” Widdup said.

“Her wheels spin, and she is much better on good or soft surfaces.

“I would have liked her to have drawn better tomorrow, but she has the pace to make her own luck.”

Short Shorts, raced in partnership by the trainer’s wife Milissa and family friend, New Zealander Mark Fraser-Campin, has won three times from six first-up appearances.

“Mark was here last weekend, but will be watching from home tomorrow,” Widdup said.

Short Shorts ($3.30) and Lees’ Dream Hour ($3.40) this morning were vying for favoritism in a “$6.50 bar two” market with TAB.com.au.

However, Lees has named $6.50 third favorite Willinga Freefall as a doubtful starter.

Along with Dream Hour (Andrew Gibbons), he will also run Convincebility (Darryl McLellan), Little Beginnings (Aaron Bullock), Sailor (Christian Reith) and Pier Pressure (Andrew Adkins).

Convincebility is at $11, Pier Pressure $13, Little Beginnings $19 and Sailor $34.

Dream Hour is resuming after gaining a ticket into the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm in June after winning the $300,000 The Gateway over the same course there on December 9.

“He is coming up nicely and has had two recent trials to help get him ready for his return,” Lees said.

“He is drawn well and looks the pick of my team.”

Lees has already qualified PMC Final favorite Tavi Time, who scored easily in last Saturday’s Newcastle Qualifier (1400m).

With another five weeks to the Final, Lees is considering running the four-year-old in a Benchmark 88 Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens next Saturday.

Widdup is also considering a Rosehill start next weekend for another PMC hopeful Ausbred Flirt, who has taken no harm from an incident at Randwick last Saturday when she banged her head on the stall at the start of the Group 2 Proven Thoroughbreds Guy Walter Stakes (1400m) and cost herself any chance of winning.

“Ausbred Flirt is fine, and I may run her in the Group 1 Coolmore Classic (1500m) next Saturday, and Alysha Collett is on standby,” Widdup said.

“Otherwise, we will wait for the next Kembla Grange Qualifier (1400m) the following Saturday.”

Hawkesbury also will be represented by Claire Lever’s Luai (Grant Buckley) and Mike Van Gestel’s Dark Glitter (apprentice Braith Nock).

Luai has won three races on the bounce at Bathurst, with Buckley aboard, and Dark Glitter is backing up after finishing seventh to Tavi Time at Newcastle last Saturday after winning two of her first three starts.

Blinkers come off one of Lees’ runners, last season’s Group 1 placegetter Pier Pressure as a two-year-old, and the same with Kembla Grange trainer Ross McConville’s C’mon Mate (Robbie Downey), who instead will race in winkers.

. Course manager Kyle Cassim has posted a “Good 4” rating for the meeting, and the rail is in the TRUE position.

The track hasn’t received any rain over the last 24 hours, but a total of 8mm of irrigation has been put on in the past week.

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