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  • Provincial Racing NSW


HAWKESBURY’S leading trainer Brad Widdup has succeeded in qualifying the only three horses he has started for the Provincial-Midway Championships Final.

Even better, the trio - Short Shorts, Ruby Flyer and Ausbred Flirt – all won their respective Qualifiers, culminating with the latter’s success in the 1350m heat at Wyong yesterday.

Now it’s up to jockey Alysha Collett to decide her $1m Final (1400m) ride at Royal Randwick on Saturday week, having won the Hawkesbury Qualifier (1400m) on March 9 on Short Shorts and then Ausbred Flirt.

“I’ll leave it to Alysha to choose whichever mare she wants to ride,” Widdup said today.

“She knows both mares well, so I’m happy for her to make the decision.”

Widdup also qualified three horses for last year’s Final (won by Spangler on a heavy track), and his $101 outsider Cross The Rubicon did best in finishing third.

Short Shorts ($6) wasn’t comfortable on the wet ground and finished a creditable fifth, whilst Phearson ($19) ran 13th.

Widdup understandably is looking forward to saddling his three Finalists on Saturday week in what he considers is a “very open race”.

“It looks to be a really strong Final, and all my horses go there in really good form.

“Whereas Short Shorts and Ausbred Flirt are better on top of the ground, our Kembla Grange winner Ruby Flyer relishes a wet track.”

Alysha Collett gave Ausbred Flirt ($3.50 favorite) a perfect run from her inside draw and produced her at the right time on straightening to post her sixth win at her 17th start.

The five-year-old daughter of Maurice led home a Hawkesbury quinella, defeating Edward Cummings’ Group 1 placegetter Strait Acer ($5), who turned in an outstanding performance from an awkward draw to snatch second placing on the post from Newcastle’s Angara ($26), who had made a bold bid for victory up front.

Widdup had held Ausbred Flirt back for yesterday’s Wyong race, choosing not to start her at Kembla Grange a week earlier because of the heavy track, and successfully relied on Ruby Flyer.

In the latest market on the PMC Final, Ausbred Flirt is at $11 and Ruby Flyer and Short Shorts are both rated $17 chances.

Widdup won’t accept with stablemate Phearson for Saturday’s Group 1 Doncaster Mile at Randwick, and instead will nominate him for Friday’s $150,000 Big Dance Eligibility Muswellbrook Cup (1500m).

“We’ll have a look at the nominations, but there’s a good chance Phearson will go to Muswellbrook,” Widdup said.

. Ausbred Flirt was Widdup’s 46th winner of the season, and Hawkesbury’s 130th since August 1.

March has been a record month for the local training base, with Ausbred Flirt and earlier Edward Cummings’ Hippy Dreams (also at Wyong) taking the number of winners to 28.

. Leading Newcastle trainer Kris Lees clinched his 17th Group 1 success and his apprentice Dylan Gibbons his second when the pair combined for an upset Tancred Stakes (2400m) victory at Rosehill Gardens yesterday.

Now the gun young Newcastle jockey will have the chance to win the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday week for a second year running.

Gibbons clinched his maiden Group 1 on Explosive Jack in last year’s Cup, and will ride Lees’ Tancred winner Kalapour, who has tightened to $11.

He has 52.5kg and cannot be penalised as the Tancred was run under weight-for-age conditions.

A $31 chance, the Irish import defeated fellow Sydney Cup rivals More Felons and Ashrun to take his career earnings beyond $1.5m.

“Kalapour is a real honest horse, and won’t get into another handicap now with such a light weight,” Lees said.

“I wasn’t sure he had the class to win a Tancred, but it was worth a shot as it didn’t look the strongest edition of the race.”

Lees is no stranger to a Sydney Cup triumph either. He scored with County Tyrone (Jim Cassidy) in 2006.

. Latest betting on the 12 horses qualified for the PMC Final (the last three places will be filled by the placegetters in Wednesday’s Wild Card, 1400m at Newcastle) is:

$3 Tavi Time

$4.50 Territory Express

$6 Shadows Of Love

$8 Strait Acer

$11 Ausbred Flirt

$17 Ruby Flyer, Short Shorts

$21 Willinga Beast, Willaidow

$34 Victory Lane

$51 Convincebility, Nosey Parker

Story John Curtis, March 31, 2024 - Pics Steve Hart Photographics

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