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Brad Widdup is hoping last-start winner Sandbar can force his way into the field for The Hunter

Fresh from celebrating his first Flemington winner with Akari during Melbourne Cup week, Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup is hoping last-start winner Sandbar can force his way into the field for The Hunter.

Akari won the Listed Hong Kong Jockey Club Stakes (1400m) on the Melbourne Cup program on Tuesday.

Widdup’s attention is now closer to home where despite being a Listed winner and dual Group placegetter, Sandbar sits outside the 15-horse The Hunter field for Saturday’s million-dollar race which has attracted 26 nominations.

Part of the Newcastle stand-alone meeting, The Hunter (1300m) is the richest race held on a NSW provincial track and will be followed a week later by The Gong, also worth $1 million.

Triple Group One winner Le Romain heads the field and local trainer Kris Lees’ five-strong contingent.

He is rated 112 with Godolphin’s Home Of The Brave next on 109 with the pair to carry 59.5kg and 58kg respectively.

Sandbar, who won a Benchmark 88 at Rosehill on November 2, is on 92 and No.19 in the order and has 53kg.

“It’s good to have him back and winning but obviously now he needs to get into the field,” Widdup said.

“His main aim is the Magic Millions in January and he has other options between now and then but it would be nice to get a run at Newcastle.

“There are a couple of stakes races in December that will suit him.”

Lees has nominated four two-year-olds in the Max Lees Classic (900m) a race named after his late father who trained champion two-year-old Luskin Star.

All 12 entries are first-starters with two from the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott stable and two from Matthew Smith’s yard.

The Group Three Spring Stakes (1600m) also has 12 nominations headed by the Waterhouse/Bott-trained Rule The World who is unbeaten in three starts.

Widdup also entered three-year-old filly Switched for a benchmark race but favours running her at the Canterbury meeting on Friday night.

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