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Image: Steve Hart
The Sydney autumn carnival's Provincial Championships have been given a makeover

Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup believes the decision to expand the Provincial Championships to include Midway eligible horses will be a boost for the series.

Racing NSW announced the changes on Thursday with horses from the smaller city stables given an avenue to qualify for the $500,000 Final at Randwick in April, which will now be known as the Provincial-Midway Championships.

While it will bring increased competition for provincial-based trainers like Widdup, he says fresh ideas and innovations are crucial to the health of the sport.

“They are coming up with new ideas all the time and it keeps racing in the headlines. I’ve got nothing against it,” Widdup said.

“We race against them every Saturday, and it will make the race stronger and there will be better betting turnover.”

Midway Handicaps were added to Sydney’s Saturday programs last year to provide eligible metropolitan and provincial trainers with a chance to compete for good prizemoney without having to come up against the major stables.

Widdup will start $8 chance Mr Bond in this weekend’s renewal at Randwick and anticipates a bold performance from the three-time winner.

The gelding should appreciate a distance rise to 1800m after doing his best work late when a first-up fifth to Buzz over 1400m at Hawkesbury, before finishing less than four lengths behind For Valour over 1550m on the Kensington track last start.

“He’s getting fitter now. He carried a big weight first-up and hit the line, and second-up he just wasn’t quite there yet,” Widdup said.

“He may still be one run away from his peak, but he will be competitive.”

 
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