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  • Provincial Racing NSW


LEADING Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup has called up a previous winner to join his growing team for the Polytrack Provincial-Midway Championship Final.

Jockey Tim Clark, who scored a runaway victory on $20 chance Maryore in the 2017 Final, will ride Phearson, who clinched a spot in the $500,000 Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday by winning his home track Qualifier on March 4.

Widdup, who has never previously had a representative in the Final of the annual series since he began training at Hawkesbury in 2017, has done a tremendous job to qualify at least 20 per cent of the 15-horse field.

Short Shorts joined Phearson when she scorched to a new Kembla Grange 1400m record a week ago, and Cross The Rubicon made it three when she finished second to Acquitted in yesterday’s Wyong Qualifier (1350m).

“Tim will ride Phearson, and Alysha Collett, who has won three races on Short Shorts (including Kembla Grange), stays on her, and she also rode Cross The Rubicon yesterday,” Widdup said today.

“I am yet to finalise a rider for Cross The Rubicon.”

Widdup is understandably thrilled to have qualified three horses for this year’s Final, considering he has started only four in the six Qualifiers already run.

And he is hoping to make it a Final quartet when The Poacher, who was responsible for a first-class performance when fourth from an outside barrier to ruling favorite Kayobi in the Gosford Qualifier (1200m) last Thursday week, contests the Wildcard (1400m) at Newcastle on Thursday.

Kerrin McEvoy rode The Poacher at Gosford, and has the mount again.

Whereas the first two placegetters qualified in each of the six heats, the three placegetters in the Wildcard will join them in the Final.

Kayobi is a $4 favorite with in the latest Final market, with Short Shorts at $4.50. Phearson is at $11, The Poacher is at $15, and Cross The Rubicon has been largely overlooked despite qualifying, and is at $51.

Though beaten clearly, Cross The Rubicon ($21) was responsible for an excellent effort when runner-up to Acquitted ($3.10), now the $6 Final third favorite, at Wyong.

That followed Widdup’s quinella result earlier in the day with Fun Sunday ($4) and $2.15 favorite Justina in the Provincial Class 1 Handicap over the same course as the Qualifier.

He put winkers on both fillies, and made it win no. 46 for the season when Fun Sunday (Koby Jennings) finished too strongly for her stablemate, who looked the winner when she overtook the leader Uncaged ($3.20) after straightening.

“Justina has always had a bit of a boom on her, but nonetheless the difference in their starting prices was surprising,” Widdup said.

“Fun Sunday (third) finished in front of Justina (fifth) last time at Newcastle, and beat her fair and square.”

Fun Sunday, a three-year-old daughter of Golden Slipper winner Sebring, was the middle pin of a Wyong treble for Jennings, who later beat Widdup, landing the Qualifier with a dashing ride on Acquitted.

Fellow Hawkesbury trainer Mike Van Gestel keeps only a small team, but is having his best season in many a year, in terms of winners.

Van Gestel made it six wins in the first eight months of the 2022-23 racing year when No Statement scored at the Wellington Boot Showcase meeting today.

Ridden by Orange apprentice William Stanley, No Statement ($8) defeated Rylan’s Pick ($13) and $4.20 favorite Polylithic in the Benchmark 66 Showcase Handicap (900m).

Stanley’s 2kg claim proved decisive, lessening the Press Statement four-year-old’s weight to 59,5kg. He had the gelding away well, keep him in touch with the leaders, got him into fourth place making the home turn, paving the way for the gelding to finish off with determination.

This was No Statement’s fifth victory, and he has also been placed on 14 occasions.

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