SUNDAY: March 19, 2023: BRAD Widdup has never previously had a finalist in the Polytrack Provincial-Midway Championship; now he’s got two.

And there may be more to come.

Hawkesbury’s leading trainer added yesterday’s Kembla Grange record breaker and first-up specialist Short Shorts to his Hawkesbury Qualifier winner Phearson for the $500,000 Final (1400m) to be run at Royal Randwick on April 8 (Day 2 of The Championships).

With two more heats to be run, Brad plans to have a representative in both, hoping to secure more finalists.

Cross The Rubicon, not far away when sixth to Phearson in the Hawkesbury heat on March 4, will line up in Saturday’s 1350m Qualifier at Wyong, and The Poacher, who did an outstanding job from an outside barrier to finish fourth in Kayobi’s Gosford Qualifier (1200m) last Thursday, tackles the Newcastle Wildcard (1400m) on Thursday week.

The Wyong race is for provincial trainers only, and the Wildcard for both provincial and Midway trainers.

Heavily-backed $2.50 favorite Short Shorts (Alysha Collett) became the new 1400m record holder at Illawarra Turf Club when she clocked 1:21.73, clearing out over the closing stages to beat Kris Lees’ Cloudland ($11) by three and a half lengths.

It was her fifth win from 13 starts, and her third from four first-up attempts. 

Raced by Brad’s wife Milissa and Short Shorts’ breeder, New Zealander Mark Fraser-Campin, the four -year-old mare had her Final price slashed from $15 to $6 second favorite, with Kayobi the ruling $4.50 favorite.

Phearson and The Poacher are both at $15 in the latest market, and another stablemate Ausbred Flirt ($17) is unlikely to contest the series as her trainer isn’t keen on backing her up at Wyong after resuming at Rosehill Gardens yesterday, and the Wildcard is restricted to horses who have contested earlier heats but haven’t yet qualified for the Final.

Brad qualified Witches for the 2018 Final, but she was transferred to another provincial trainer, and finished well down the track behind winner Serene Miss.

“The Provincial-Midway Championship carries terrific prizemoney, and we’ve been fortunate to have some nice horses to aim at the series this year,” Brad said today.

“It’s very pleasing to have already qualified two of them for the Final.

“Both Phearson and Short Shorts won’t start again before April 8.

“Phearson will trial on Monday week, and we’ll keep Short Shorts on ice until the Final as she is such a good fresh mare.”

Short Shorts was away smartly yesterday, but her rider Collett wisely didn’t try to mix it with Kembla-trained Zenti ($26), who flew from the barrier stalls and set a scorching pace.

RacingNSW stewards later opened an inquiry into the running and handling of Zenti (who finished a distant last), and adjourned it to a later date after taking evidence from jockey James Innes Jnr and trainer Ben Smith.

Brad’s mare took over passing the 400m, and was never seriously threatened thereafter, though runner-up Cloudland issued a brief challenge but was unable to match Short Shorts, who was strong to the line.

. Short Shorts was Brad’s 45th winner this season – and the 130th for Hawkesbury trainers – and he is yet to decide if Ausbred Rising Sun will continue on to the $2m Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick on Saturday week on the opening day of The Championships.

The Maurice three-year-old got well back and never came into contention in yesterday’s Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m).