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FESTIVAL Stakes winner Phearson will back up in Saturday’s $2m The Ingham at Royal Randwick – but needs a new rider!

Leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup, whilst confirming the tough gelding had pulled up well after a stakes breakthrough yesterday in the Group 3 feature at Rosehill Gardens, also revealed he is searching for a replacement for winning jockey Tom Sherry in the Group 2 event.

Sherry has been booked for last year’s The Ingham runner-up Lion’s Roar, who won the 2021 Group 1 Randwick Guineas over the same course as a three-year-old.

“Phearson is in good order, and it’s a $2m raffle, so we have to take a ticket,” Widdup said today.

“The Ingham winner also becomes exempt from ballot for the Group 1 Doncaster Mile at Randwick next autumn, and it’s unfortunate Tom is unavailable as he has got to know Phearson better.

“He also rode him at his previous start when third (runner-up Acquitted won the Listed Tails Stakes, 1600m at Doomben yesterday) to Ka Bling in a Benchmark 94 Handicap (1300m) at The Hunter meeting at Newcastle on November 18.”

Widdup has never had a starter in The Ingham, and is ready to try Phearson at the Randwick 1600m, having successfully tackled 1500m for the first time yesterday.

In clinching his 18th winner of the season and a career 314th, Widdup understandably took great pride in winning a stakes race with the gelding at his first attempt.

Especially as the now six-year-old’s career with him was very nearly over before it began.

Placed at his first three starts at Canberra in early 2021, Phearson was switched to Widdup, who won a Randwick trial (1050m) with him in April last year.

That was the good news. But things turned decidedly sour when the gelding straddled the bars in the tie-up stalls returning there after the trial, and suffered deep cuts.

“He had cuts everywhere,” Widdup recalled. “He had his head right to the back of the stall, and whilst it was bad enough, it could have been even worse.

“Phearson had already been off the scene for a year because of a paddock accident before he came to me, so it wasn’t an easy phone call to make to part-owner Peter Christou to tell him the bad news.

“The horse was pretty banged up and needed stitches.

“We had to stop with Phearson, and fellow part-owner Peter James’ daughter Lauri did a terrific job looking after him and patching him up at her parents’ Sunninghill Park property on the South Coast.”

When Phearson finally made it back to the track – and finished a close second in a Hawkesbury Maiden (1300m) on September 9 last year – he had not raced for 18 months.

Widdup then won three in a row with the gelding, culminating with a Provincial-Midway Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Hawkesbury in March this year when first-up.

A $65,000 yearling purchase, Phearson, a son of Exosphere, is building a very tidy record.

He has raced 15 times for five wins and eight placings, and has earned nearly $450,000.

That will swell considerably by $1.155m if he can do it again in Saturday’s The Ingham, where the two horses (Williamsburg and Rustic Steel) he beat home in the Festival, once more will be opponents.

Phearson drew an inside gate yesterday, and Sherry quickly made his intentions clear by taking up the running.

“That was the plan,” Widdup said. “Phearson is a big lean bugger who likes hard work.

“Tom ride him beautifully.”

Phearson ($17) bravely staved off Williamsburg ($8) and $4.40 co-favorite Rustic Steel in a tense finish, then had to “win” again in the stewards’ room, surviving a protest lodged by Williamsburg’s rider Tyler Schiller, alleging interference over the last 100m.

RacingNSW stewards established that Rustic Steel was the major contributor to interference, shifting in under pressure and hampering the runner-up, who became awkwardly placed near the heels of Phearson when he shifted out marginally approaching and passing the 100m.

. RacingNSW stewards suspended jockey Lee Magorrian for using the whip on 10 occasions (five more than permitted) prior to the 100m in the Lander Toyota Benchmark 64 Handicap (2000m) at Hawkesbury today.

Magorrian rode Genetic Freak (fourth at $5) and pleaded guilty to the charge. Stewards took into consideration his poor record ion respect to breaches under this rule in outing him from December 10 until 20, on which day he may ride again.

In the same race, Widdup’s $3.90 favorite Youthfull (sixth) was held up for clear running in the home straight and unable to be tested by her apprentice rider Jett Stanley.

*Story John Curtis, December 3, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos*

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