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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


THURSDAY: March 17, 2022: BRAD Widdup has equalled last season’s tally of winners in just under the first eight months of the current season – and in the process brought up a century for Hawkesbury trainers.

Widdup’s victory with hat-trick clincher Cross The Rubicon at Newcastle today was his 36th since August 1, and the 100th for Hawkesbury trainers in the same period.

Cross The Rubicon ($4) gave her rivals a start and a beating, swooping down the outside to easily defeat $2.15 favorite Endorsement and Cognac ($13) in the Benchmark 64 Handicap (1400m).

The four-year-old Dissident mare had not managed a placing in four starts when she joined Widdup’s stable late last year.

After a first-up third at Wyong on January 23, she reeled off Newcastle 1200m and Goulburn 1400m wins on February 12 and March 1 respectively, and made it a three-peat with another impressive performance today.

Cross The Rubicon’s trainer hasn’t been surprised at all by his lightly-raced mare’s form surge.

“My horses don’t trial astronomically, but I was shocked when she trialled so well at Gosford (second in an 800m heat) in early January,” he said this evening.

“I haven’t done anything different with her; I just train her normally.

“But riding her quietly has certainly been the key to her winning form.

“She was ridden too close first-up when third at Wyong, and it has been a different story when she is allowed to find her feet.

“The way she is finishing her races suggests 1600m may not be beyond her either.”

Widdup’s opinion of Cross The Rubicon is such that he was keen to have a crack at the current Provincial-Midway Championships.

However, RacingNSW ruled the mare was ineligible as she wasn’t in his care when a stable return had to be lodged by July 1 last year.

Cross The Rubicon clocked 1:24.89 in winning today, only slightly slower than dual city winner and Group 3 placegetter Never Talk, who easily won the previous race, the Provincial-Midway Championships Qualifier in 1:24.11.

Widdup, Hawkesbury’s leading trainer, is uncertain where he will go next with the mare, who was a $200,000 yearling purchase at the Gold Coast in 2019.

“She had a benchmark rating of 61 before today’s race, so I’ll see how she is treated following this win and go from there,” he said.

As Cross The Rubicon won at Newcastle, Widdup was taking his star mare Icebath to Warwick Farm for her overnight float trip to Melbourne to contest Saturday’s $5m All-Star Mile at Flemington, where Fred Kersley has the mount.

“I’m very happy with Icebath, and expect her to race well on Saturday,” he said.

“But this run will bring her to her peak for the Doncaster Mile at Royal Randwick in a fortnight.

“Kerrin McEvoy has committed to riding her in the Doncaster.”

Icebath was narrowly beaten by Cascadian in last year’s rich mile, and rises only 1kg to 51.5kg.

. Metropolitan-based trainers Richard and Michael Freedman’s Hawkesbury operation got a boost earlier in the Newcastle program when Williams Bay ($2.70) broke through in the Maiden Handicap (900m).

Having her 11th start and following five minor placings (including one in town), the Capitalist filly, ridden by Jean Van Overmeire, finished gamely to run down $2.40 favorite Eva Daniela.

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