By Frances O'Shea
Trainer Brad Widdup is equally excited about engaging champion jockey Robert Thompson and having his first Provincial Championships runner Witches, in Saturday’s $150,000 Provincial Championships Qualifier at Wyong.
Hawkesbury-based Widdup is enjoying great success with 34 winners halfway through only his second season, including a recent Stakes victory with impressive two-year-old Sandbar.
The Snitzel colt will be chasing his third successive win in the Group 2 Skyline Stakes at Randwick on Saturday. With stable jockey Christian Reith riding Sandbar, Widdup was forced to look for an alternative for his in-form mare Witches.
“Christian would have loved to have ridden her but he’s picked up three really good rides in town including Sandbar, “ Widdup said.
“I’m from the country so it’s a big thrill for me to have Robert Thompson on a horse. His name is going to be remembered for a long time.
“It will be his first ride for me. I think I saddled one up for him when I was at Darley, he won a Newmarket or something like that. I’ve got a legend on my horse. I’m rapt to have him it’s great. There are some great Provincial riders so I think it gives them a good chance to show their stuff.”
Widdup said while his mare is in good form, with two wins and seven placings from 15 starts, he is under no illusions that it will be an easy race.
“She’s fit and well but from the noms there’s going to be a couple of smart ones in there. It’s a great concept taking on all the big guys in the Provincial circuit and they have all got runners but that just adds to the competition.
"They are strong stables: Kris Lees, Kim Waugh, Kristen Buchanan and the likes. If you run into them on a normal day they are strong, so this will be tough.” He said they had planned to target the Wyong Qualifier for Witches, raced by Dynamic Syndications, some time back.
“It’s something we earmarked. She’s racing well and it was pretty obvious to have a crack at that. It’s good prizemoney, a great concept and that’s why we headed that way with her.
“I’ve only had my licence eight months and it’s exciting to have my first runner in the Championships. It is a great thing what they’ve done with the Championships, not only including the Sydney trainers, but everyone else gets a go; if you’re lucky enough to get a horse to qualify it’s a pretty big thing.”
With a large ownership group there will be plenty in the cheer squad on Saturday should the mare win: “I imagine all the owners will be there. They are all right behind her and they’ve had a good bit of luck so far, so hopefully that can continue.
“She gave me my first winner at Randwick on New Year’s Day and there was so many of them there. I didn’t realise there were so many owners until I got down to the winner’s stall. They were pretty happy.”