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Festival Stakes winner Phearson will back up in Saturday’s $2 million The Ingham at Royal Randwick – but needs a new rider!
Festival Stakes winner Phearson will back up in Saturday's $2 million 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 in Saturday's 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 $2 million raffle, so we have to take a ticket," Widdup said.
"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 on Saturday) 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 on Saturday.
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.