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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


TUESDAY: February 21, 2023: THERE was good news for leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup on one front today – but not on two others.

Whilst lightly-raced Owari took another promising step in his brief career by breaking through at Wyong at only his third start, Widdup has advised RacingNSW stewards that he won’t be accepting with his star mare Icebath in the morning for Saturday’s Group 2 Guy Walter Proven Thoroughbreds Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick.

“Icebath isn’t right, and of course we won’ be taking any risks with her,” he said this evening.

“I have never had to scratch her from a race because of an injury, and that won’t happen this time either because she won’t be an acceptor.”

Widdup advised stewards yesterday that Icebath had some sensitivity to her near fore hoof, and provided a further update today by saying there had been no marked improvement with the issue.

Though understandably disappointed with Icebath’s setback, he was thrilled to see Owari ($1.45 favorite) shed his maiden status at Wyong.

Ridden by Brett Prebble, Owari began well and led, was momentarily headed approaching the 800m before taking control and scoring easily from Piccadilly Lass ($15) and Higher Hand ($7.50) in a Provincial Maiden Plate (1600m).

Three-year-old Owari (by Astern) is a younger half-brother to four-year-old Fudai (by Shalaa), who won consecutive races at Canterbury and Kembla Grange in January.

Both are from the Fuji Kiseki mare Fuji Fairy, and were bred by Pip Cooper.

“Owari has come a long way in a relatively short time,” Widdup said.

“He settled last at his debut when runner-up on the Beaumont track last month, then raced up on the speed when narrowly beaten at Kembla Grange at his next run.

“I might give him one more run before a break provided he does well after today’s race.

“We had to nominate him early for the Randwick Guineas ($1m Group 1 over 1600m at Royal Randwick on Saturday week) but won’t be running.”

. Widdup has $6 second favorite Phearson (Brett Prebble) set to resume in Thursday’s Kembla Grange opening Qualifier (1400m) of the Polytrack Provinciaj-Midway Championship (1400m), but the gelding drew 17 (he will start from 14 if the three emergencies do not make the field).

“I’m not sure if he will go to Kembla; I am yet to speak with the owners about the draw,” Widdup said.

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