SUNDAY: March 5, 2023: HAWKESBURY’S leading trainer Brad Widdup has his first Polytrack Provincial-Midway Championship Finalist – and there may be more to follow.
Widdup produced a brilliant training performance to win his home track $150,000 Qualifier (1400m) yesterday with Phearson ($5.50) at his first start since last October, and is attempting to add to his Final team by also qualifying a number of stablemates in forthcoming heats.
The $500,000 Final (1400m) will be run at Royal Randwick on April 8 (Day 2 of The Championships), and Phearson and Wyong trainer Damien Lane’s gutsy mare Denetta joined last week’s Kembla Grange opening heat first two Essonne and Herb as automatic qualifiers.
Widdup has done a splendid job with the lightly-raced Phearson (Grant Buckley), who clinched a hat-trick in defeating Denetta ($41) and beaten $2.30 favorite Spangler’s stablemate Willinga Freefall ($9).
The ultra-consistent Exosphere five-year-old has started seven times for three wins and four placings; his only defeat in four starts for Widdup being a first-up second (after 18 months on the sideline) in a Hawkesbury Provincial Maiden (1300m) on September 8 last year.
Widdup withdrew Phearson from the Kembla Grange Qualifier (1400m) last Thursday week when he drew awkwardly, and was confident he had him ready to run well on resumption yesterday.
“He is not a big heavy horse, and I wasn’t concerned about going to 1400m first-up,” he said today.
“Now that he has qualified for the April 8 Final, he will definitely have one more start before then, but I’m not sure when that will be.”
Whilst Widdup was understandably thrilled with Phearson’s victory, he was also pleased with stablemate Cross The Rubicon ($31), who was out of luck in finishing sixth.
RacingNSW stewards reported the mare was slow to begin and then was crowded for room between Spangler and Soloist, which shifted out.
After settling a clear last, she was held up rounding the home turn before jockey Alysha Collett shifted her to the inside of Cuban Granchico near the 200m to obtain clear running.
“Cross The Rubicon went terrific,” Widdup said. “She will go to the next Kembla Qualifier (1400m) on Saturday week, and Ausbred Flirt might join her there.
‘She will run either at Kembla or in the Group 3 Birthday Card Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens the same day.”
Widdup has nominated Stellar Performer and The Halo for Thursday’s third 1400m Qualifier (for both eligible provincial and Midway horses) at Newcastle, and also has The Poacher and Short Shorts waiting in the wings.
Max Lees Classic winner Fire Lane will be entered for Saturday’s Magic Night Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill against her own sex.
The Hellbent two-year-old beat yesterday’s Todman Stakes winner Cylinder in the Lees Classic (900m) at Newcastle last November when on debut.
. Current $6 Provincial-Midway Championship Final favorite Loch Eagle will trial on the Beaumont track on Wednesday en route to tackling one of the qualifiers.
Phearson is at $15, whilst Spangler has drifted to $34 following his unplaced run yesterday.
. HOOFNOTE: Whilst Widdup hasn’t previously had a runner in the $500,000 Final, he did qualify Gosford placegetter Witches in 2018.
However, she ran for another provincial trainer when 14th to Kris Lees’ Serene Miss in that year’s Final.