Distance test for Phearson in the Festival Stakes

Consistent gelding Phearson will be entering unchartered territory when he extends beyond 1400-metres for the first time in the Festival Stakes at Rosehill.

However, trainer Brad Widdup is heading to the race with a theory that the extra journey could play into the hands of the horse’s racing style.

The Group 2 is a traditional springboard into The Ingham (1600m), formerly known as the Villiers Stakes, and while Phearson won’t be going down that path, he will be taking on a Festival Stakes field made up largely of milers.

Widdup is banking on that equating to a more moderately run race, which could potentially suit an on-pace horse like Phearson.

“It’s his first go at 1500, but hopefully the tempo will suit him,” Widdup said.

“I dropped him back to 1300 the other day and from a wide draw he had to work, where the 1500 tempo might suit him – might.

“He’s in good order and he has drawn a barrier.”

Phearson has gate five in a field reduced to 16 by the early scratchings of Vilana and Chase My Crown.

He comes into Saturday’s race off two competitive performances, finishing runner-up to Festival Stakes favourite Grebeni in the Goulburn Cup (1400m) two starts ago and third to Ka Bling over 1300m at Newcastle last time out.

Widdup doesn’t expect Phearson to push much deeper into the summer, the trainer instead keen to send him for a break ahead of the Provincial-Midway Championships (1400m) in April.

“He’s had a short spring and there are nice races for him in the autumn,” Widdup said.

“There’s the Provincial-Midway Championship which is of $1 million next year.”

Phearson will be one of two black-type runners for Widdup at Rosehill, along with Sneaky Paige in the Listed Starlight Stakes (1100m), while Cross The Rubicon will tackle the Doyle’s Breeding And Racing Handicap (1400m).

Cross The Rubicon hasn’t won for 20-months but enjoys wet tracks and she did finish third in the Provincial-Midway Championship earlier this year.

“Her form is better than it looks and one thing, she has never looked better, she looks great,” Widdup said.

“She is a slow beginner and it can really stuff her up but she will be better suited out to 1400 metres, and fillies and mares’ grade will suit her as well.”

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