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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis

WIDDUP BEGINS PROVINCIAL-MIDWAY QUEST


SUNDAY: March 3, 2024: HAWKESBURY’S leading trainer Brad Widdup will begin his Provincial-Midway Championships quest at home on Saturday.

Buoyed by a two-track double yesterday to lift his season’s winners so far to 34, Widdup will run his smart mare Short Shorts in the $150,000 Qualifier (1400m), which is restricted to eligible provincial horses.

He has booked Alysha Collett for the mount.

Collett partnered Short Shorts in a record-breaking easy defeat of Cloudland and Reggie’s Boy in a Kembla Qualifier (1400m) last year before finishing fifth to Spangler on a very heavy track in the Final at Royal Randwick.

Short Shorts, raced by Widdup’s wife Milissa in partnership with New Zealander Mark Fraser-Campin, has won three times from six first-up starts, and is in great form at the trials, winning both.

She took a 1030m heat at Rosehill Gardens on February 5, and then a 1050m heat at Randwick 17 days later.

Whilst Widdup underlined his skill by scoring with Phearson ($12) at Randwick and Akaka Falls ($5.50) at Newcastle – both resuming from breaks – his day was mixed as well-backed Ausbred Flirt ($3.40) lost all chance when she fluffed the start and finished sixth in the Group 2 Proven Thoroughbreds Guy Walter Stakes (1400m) at Randwick.

“It was most uncharacteristic of her,” Widdup said today.

“She banged her head on the stall as she jumped and in the circumstances did well to finish as close as she did (beaten only three and a half lengths).

“Thankfully, she appears to have come through pretty well unscathed.”

Widdup withdrew Ausbred Flirt from both the Kembla Grange and Newcastle Qualifiers last Thursday and yesterday respectively to focus on the Guy Walter, and now plans to run the mare in the next Kembla Grange Qualifier (1400m) on March 23.

That race is for both eligible provincial and Midway horses, with the first two placegetters securing spots in the field for the $1m Final (1400m) at Randwick on April 13.

Whilst Widdup naturally was disappointed with what happened with Ausbred Flirt, he was thrilled with Phearson’s all the way victory in the Group 3 Liverpool City Cup (1300m).

“He’s a tough horse, but a funny horse just the same,” he said.

“Full credit to our staff, especially Rosie and Aaron who ride him work.”

Widdup revealed he has to keep the work up to Phearson to ensure he stays on the straight and narrow.

“I don’t work him hard but work him consistently,” he said.

“He loves the soft, now having won four races and been placed four times from eight starts on that type of ground.”

Phearson also won the Group 3 Festival Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens in early December, and his trainer says he is best around the 1300m-1500m.

“There are no major plans,” Widdup said. “We might go to the Ajax Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill in a fortnight or Doncaster Prelude over the same distance there on March 30.”

Widdup not only was pleased to clinch another victory with Akaka Falls at Newcastle, but also to see his apprentice Zac Wadick get a double at the provincial meeting.

As well as Akaka Falls (Provincial Benchmark 68 Handicap, 900m), Wadick partnered $1.35 hotpot Wymark to a hollow nine lengths’ victory in the following race, the Class 1/Maiden Plate (1850m), for Randwick trainer Michael Freedman.

“Zac is going really well,” Widdup said. “I reckon he has ridden seven or eight winners for me.

“Yesterday’s race set up nicely for Akaka Falls, and he races well on the fresh side.”

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