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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


SATURDAY: December 2, 2023: IF trophies were handed out this weekend for distance travelled, James Ponsonby would surely have a cupboard full!

The Hawkesbury trainer can be tagged the “I’ve Been Everywhere” man, as he has barely had time to stop in the last few days – and his wanderlust is by no means over yet either.

Ponsonby’s first city winner from his now provincial base, with Philipsburg at Rosehill Gardens today, was a great reward for all the travelling he has done between his home State and Victoria.

Having floated two horses (Will To Excel and Statesville) interstate overnight on Thursday to run at Warrnambool tomorrow, he then flew back to Sydney yesterday to get his three runners ready for their Rosehill assignments today.

Ponsonby then took Philipsburg, Grenoble and Socrates back home after the second and third races, and was off again to catch a flight back south to saddle Will To Excel and Statesville for their Warrnambool assignments.

Will To Excel is fourth emergency for the marathon $300,000 Jericho Cup (4600m), and is also in the Consolation, with Edward Keating to ride, over the “shorter” 4065m, whilst Statesville (Brad Rawiller) runs in the Benchmark 58 Handicap (1700m).

“Under the conditions of the Jericho Cup, we will have to run in that if Will To Excel gets a start,” Ponsonby said.

“But the favorite Guido (who won by eight lengths at the Valley over 3850m at his last outing) looks very hard to beat, and I’m hoping we can go the Consolation instead, where he would have a much better chance.”

Ponsonby continued his excellent run in the first period of the 2023-24 season, clinching his eighth success since August with Philipsburg ($6) in the Midway Handicap (2000m) at Rosehill.

And he was thrilled to combine with jockey Tom Sherry to lead home an all-provincial finish, Philipsburg defeating Kembla Grange trainer Joe Ible’s The Carpet Bagger ($7.50) and Wyong trainer Wayne Seelin’s Apache Belle ($18).

“Tom started working at Warwick Farm with Mark Newnham (now training in Hong Kong) when I was there with him before taking out my own licence,” Ponsonby said.

“He is now a senior jockey and it was very pleasing to have him ride a winner for me.”

Ponsonby described Philipsburg as a family pet, and it’s easy to understand his comment.

“Philipsburg was one of the horses I bought in my first six months of training back in 2020,” he said.

“I paid $20,000 online for him in October that year as a one-start maiden (he ran sixth in a 2YO Plate, 1100m at Auckland’s Ellerslie racecourse in New Zealand in December, 2019).

“He always puts in, has been unlucky in four or five runs, and has been a terrific horse for us.”

Philipsburg has raced 47 times for Ponsonby, collecting seven wins and nine placings, and the now six-year-old’s earnings are approaching $450,000.

He won three (at Moruya, Albury and Muswellbrook) of his first six starts for Ponsonby, and his first city success came on a “Heavy 10” surface at Canterbury in April last year when he scored easily over 1550m.

The experienced horseman has used all his skills as a former harness racing devotee to keep Philipsburg in great heart as today’s race was his 16th since late May.

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