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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


MONDAY: March 14, 2022: IMPORTANT drainage work undertaken during Hawkesbury’s summer recess has proven a godsend in the lead-up to tomorrow’s midweek meeting.

Hawkesbury this morning was rated a “Heavy 8”, but course manager Rick Johnston is confident of an upgrade into the soft range, provided there is no more rain.

“Around 600 mills of rain fell on the track in 19 days, and I strongly doubt we would have been able to race tomorrow if we hadn’t done the drainage work over the Christmas break,” Johnston said this morning.

“Whilst 130mm has been recorded in the last seven days, thankfully we have had a break in the weather since Thursday.

“As a result, we have been able to mow the track to let some sun and air in. There’s no doubt the drainage work undertaken has been vital.

“I’m confident that with no more rain in the next 24 hours, we can definitely race on soft ground.”

The rail is out only 1m from the 400m to the winning post, and in the TRUE position for the remainder of the circuit.

Leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup has four runners at his home track’s second meeting of the calendar year, and says he will be disappointed if a winner isn’t forthcoming.

Widdup’s representatives are Zalini (Pacific West Foods Class 1 Handicap, 1000m), Short Shorts (A&T Trading/ Tip Top Class 1 Handicap, 1400m), Global Ausbred (Patties Foods/Signature Foods 3YO Maiden Handicap, 1300m), and Sneaky Island (Simplot Food Service Cup Maiden Plate, 1800m).

Alysha Collett, who has ridden 14 winners for the stable, partners the Widdup quartet.

Widdup has 34 winners already on the board this season, and withdrew both Short Shorts and Global Ausbred from today’s Canberra Cup meeting to focus on his home program.

“Both drew awkwardly at Canberra,” he said this morning. “Because of that, it made sense to drive a few minutes to the track rather than three hours to Canberra.”

Widdup has made gear changes on the lightly-raced pair. A cross-over nose band goes on Short Shorts, whilst blinkers come off her stablemate.

Short Shorts, an Iffraaj filly part-owned by the trainer’s wife Milissa, has raced only three times for a Newcastle debut victory last November and subsequent placings at Hawkesbury and Kembla Grange.

She resumed when favorite and third to Arthur Francis in a Class 1 Handicap (1200m) at Kembla Grange on February 22.

“Kerrin McEvoy rode Short Shorts that day and said he had difficulty getting her away from the fence in the straight, hence the gear change,” Widdup said.

“She has raced at 1400m before (when second to Sweet Ruby, who also won her next start at Warwick Farm, at Hawkesbury in mid-December), so tomorrow shouldn’t be a problem.”

Global Ausbred, a Maurice three-year-old, raced twice as a two-year-old but hasn’t started in 11 months.

“He had a couple of issues, but did plenty of pre-training in preparation for his resumption,” Widdup explained.

“It won’t be a surprise to see him run well, but he’s a big boy and will take improvement from this race as he gets out over more ground.”

Widdup trains Zalini for a syndicate headed by former trainer Kevin Moses’ wife Jenny, and the Nicconi filly has raced well at all three starts this year for her new stable.

A Newcastle breakthrough on February 12 was sandwiched in between second placings at Kembla Grange and Newcastle.

“Zalini was very unlucky when narrowly beaten by Greenheart (who scored again at Port Macquarie last Thursday) at her last run over 900m at Newcastle,” Widdup said.

“She has trained on well since and looks to have a really good chance in a small field (five runners).”

Pierro filly Sneaky Island steps up to 1800m in the Maiden Plate, and has drawn the rails barrier.

“Sneaky Island did a terrific job after a late riding change when runner-up over 1500m at Newcastle late last month at only her third start,” Widdup said.

“She is fitter and getting to her right distance.

“All four of mine are in with chances. You would think there would be a winner there somewhere.”

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