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  • John Curtis


TUESDAY: November 3, 2020: HAWKESBURY’S longest serving trainer and one of its newest shared Melbourne Cup day spoils at Canberra today.

Ethne Potowski, who has held a licence for more than four decades, clinched her first win this season with her lone stable flag bearer Happy Hustler, whilst Brad Widdup, who has been training for only three and a half years, made it eight for the season when lightly-raced Daksha broke through at his sixth start.

Seven-year-old gelding Happy Hustler ($3.20 favorite), with Kayla Nisbet aboard, beat George Two ($20) and Bulwark ($6) in the Benchmark 60 Handicap (2000m).

The gelding was a “third choice” purchase for $25,000 by his trainer at the 2015 Inglis Classic yearling sale because she wanted to buy a Casino Prince youngster.

Potowski, who trained her first winner in 1983 (The Little Flea at Kembla Grange), had earlier missed out on two yearlings by the stallion at that sale before being able to secure Happy Hustler.

Happy Hustler took 20 starts before putting his name in the winning list at Kembla Grange on July 1 last year in a 1300m Maiden and, though he hadn’t scored since in 14 starts, his form had been consistent, not finishing further back than seventh in any of those races.

Potowski became the 17th Hawkesbury trainer to taste success this season, and hers and Widdup’s victory with Daksha boosted the number of Hawkesbury winners so far this season to 33.

Widdup was pleased to achieve a breakthrough with beautifully-bred Daksha (Deep Field – Villa Verde), who is raced by Kia Ora.

Ridden by Brendan Ward, Daksha ($3.30) defeated $3 favorite Kermatin and his own stablemate Invincible One ($31) in the Maiden Plate (1300m).

The four-year-old is the first foal of the Not A Single Doubt mare Villa Verde, who won two Listed races in Melbourne in 2012 as a two-year-old before finishing second to Overreach the following year in the Group 2 Reisling Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens, and then seventh to the same filly in the Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes over the same course there a fortnight later.

Villa Verde won the Group 2 Challenge Stakes (1000m) at Royal Randwick in 2014 before placing in the Group 1 The Galaxy (1100m) at Rosehill.

Daksha didn’t race as a two and three-year-old, and belatedly began his career at Goulburn in March this year.

“He has had a lot of issues, but tries really hard,” Widdup said this evening on his way home from the Randwick meeting.

“I was pleased to see him get his first win on the board.”

. Widdup is switching his focus to the third day of the Melbourne Cup carnival on Thursday, and has sent Akari south to chase another Flemington success.

James McDonald, who won the Listed Desirable Stakes (1400m) on Akari on Melbourne Cup day 12 months ago, again partners her, this time in the $250,000 Inglis Bracelet (1600m).

Widdup has opted for a gear change on the mare, removing blinkers and substituting visors.

“Akari hasn’t been finishing her races off quite well enough, and hopefully the change as well as the trip to Melbourne and returning to Flemington will switch her on,” he said.

“It’s a new race for fillies and mares worth good money, and she deserves a crack at it.”

Stablemates Icebath (last Saturday’s $7.5m Golden Eagle runner-up) and Switched (who broke through for her first Saturday city win at the same Rosehill meeting) have concluded their current campaigns, and will spell.

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