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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


FRIDAY: September 2, 2022: HAWKESBURY boss James Heddo has welcomed the introduction of two new provincial races as his club hosts the first of them at a rare Saturday meeting tomorrow.

The Richmond Club Provincial Maiden Plate (1000m) and Living Turf Midway Benchmark 68 Handicap (1400m) carry $45,000 purses - $5000 above regular provincial prizemoney.

“These new races are a RacingNSW initiative, and will provide a real boost to provincial meetings,” Heddo said this morning.

“The proof is in the pudding, with our two races tomorrow drawing capacity fields.

“The Maiden Plate is for provincial trainers only, whilst the Midway Benchmark 68 is restricted to eligible provincial and city trainers.”

Hawkesbury trainers have certainly lent their support to the Maiden Plate, having nine of the 14 acceptors.

It’s a different story in regards to the Benchmark 68, with Fabio Martino the sole local trainer with a runner (Eliseo).

Hawkesbury’s leading trainer Brad Widdup isn’t eligible for Midway Handicaps this season, but has confirmed The Impact (Jean Van Overmeire) as a definite starter in the Provincial Maiden Plate.

The Zoustar four-year-old has raced only once, finishing 10th in a Maiden Handicap over the same distance as tomorrow’s assignment, at Hawkesbury on October 21 last year.

He began awkwardly and raced wide throughout with cover.

A $150,000 purchase at the 2020 Inglis Australian Easter yearling sale, Widdup says The Impact has been a disappointing horse so far.

“He chipped a bone in a knee, and as a result has been off the scene for a long time,” he said this morning.

“Even though he has drawn poorly tomorrow (13 in a field of 14), I have to run him as there isn’t another suitable race for a couple of weeks.”

Widdup has made a number of gear changes on The Impact, removing a cross over nose band and putting a tongue tie and ear muffs (pre-race only) on.

The gelding is his sole local representative, and his focus will be firmly across town at Royal Randwick, where he has opted to put blinkers back on his star mare Icebath (Kerrin McEvoy) in the $250,000 Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m).

Icebath, having her second start this campaign, takes on odds-on favorite Zaaki (James McDonald).

“I left the blinkers off when she resumed in the Group 1 Winx Stakes at Randwick a fortnight ago, but she has raced in them for virtually the second half of her career,” Widdup said.

“The set weights and penalties conditions of the Tramway suit her (she comes back from carrying 57kg at weight-for-age to the minimum 53kg for a mare).”

Randwick this morning was rated a “Soft 7” with more rain likely; a boon to the prospects of accomplished wet tracker Icebath.

Fellow Hawkesbury trainers with Provincial Maiden Plate runners tomorrow are Karen Outtrim (Dusty Rubble, Qin Yong), Steve O’Halloran (Oceans One, Koby Jennings), John Higgins (Zillions, Patrick Scorse), Jason Attard and Lucy Keegan-Attard (Lady Caliope, Zac Lloyd), Richard Nutman (Lost In Japan, Jeff Penza), Kevin May (Ever Upward, Grant Buckley), Edward Cummings (Never Tell, Keagan Latham), and Peter Green (Roman Song, Louise Day).

O’Halloran has made a stack of gear changes on Oceans Own, whilst winkers go on Zillions and blinkers come off Lady Caliope.

Leading Newcastle trainer Kris Lees is another provincial trainer not eligible to contest Midway races, but will have two runners at Hawkesbury – and is expecting both to perform well.

Jeff Penza will ride American Pharoah filly Yankee Hussel in the Champion Thoroughbreds F&M Maiden Plate (1400m), and Kody Nestor partners Highly Ambitions in the St Johns Park Bowling Club Class 1 Handicap (1300m), also against her own sex.

“Neither had much luck at their last runs at Newcastle a fortnight ago,” Lees said.

Yankee Hussel figured prominently in the stewards’ report when seventh (beaten less than two lengths) to Taurids in a Newcastle Maiden Handicap (1250m) on August 20.

It was her first start since March when she contested two Group 3s in town on heavy tracks.

Highly Ambitious was held up for clear running from the 400m to 200m when third to Crazy Train in a Benchmark 64 Handicap (1400m) against her own sex at that same Newcastle meeting.

She has now been placed at her last two starts, and was narrowly beaten in a Class 1 Handicap (1100m) at Hawkesbury in February at her only start at the track

. The rail is in the TRUE position for tomorrow’s meeting, and a “Soft 5” rating was posted this morning by racecourse manager Rick Johnston.

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