Craig Widdison claims Town Plate cliffhanger with ‘dream horse’

Craig Widdison (right) and Jason Lyon (middle) combined to win the 2024 Wagga Town Plate with The Prodigal Son. Image: Widdison Racing.

Craig Widdison was the man of the moment at Murrumbidgee Turf Club on Thursday, winning the $200,000 Wagga Town Plate before leaving with a winning double. 

In the feature of the program, the Wodonga trainer started the well-supported The Prodigal Son ($5.50) in the feature sprint race over 1200m. 

With Jason Lyon in the saddle, the pair were forced to race three-wide with cover from gate 13 before turning for home some six and seven horses wide.

Despite a tough run in transit, The Prodigal Son ($5.50) got home in the nick of time to win by a lip from the Danny Williams-trained Wizard Of Oz (Quayde Krogh, $91) while in third and a neck off the winner was the Matthew Dale-trained Gravina (Tommy berry, $5.50). 

For Widdison, he was thrilled to get his name on one of the most sought-after pieces of silverware in country racing.

“In this area, there are a few races that you have in mind that you want to win, and the (Wagga) Town Plate is one of them and right up there,” Widdison told NSW Country and Picnic Racing. 

“It’s a great race and some good horses have won it, so we’re really happy to have won it.

“Twelve months ago, we thought it was a race we could target, and it doesn’t always come to plan, but this time, we were lucky enough that it worked out.”

Heading into the race, the only thing that had Widdison worried was the wide draw.

“I was rapt with the horse,” he said. 

“He really bounced off the Prelude run, but when the barriers came out, I dropped the lip a bit. That was our biggest concern, as we didn’t really know where he would end up.

“He still didn’t get a good run into the race either, so it was good to see him still get the job done.”

Lyon won on The Prodigal Son in the Town Plate Prelude on April 21, and the popular hoop didn’t panic on Thursday, giving the Wodonga galloper every chance from the poor draw.

“He’s a jock that has always been able to ride, and we saw that yesterday (Thursday),” Widdison said.  

“He doesn’t have issues with his weight, so he puts himself in line for these rides that are down in the weights. 

“When you talk to him, you can see he has a great all-round knowledge, he’s ridden for good stables, and he’s a switched-on racing person.”

Widdison is keeping his options open in terms of what is next for The Prodigal Son. 

“We’re just letting the dust settle first,” Widdison said. 

“We haven’t ruled out a trip to Brisbane for something, and there is a Listed race up the straight at Flemington.

“If you look at his record now, he’s four from four going the NSW way, and one from two up the straight, but zero from seven around the bend when going the Vic (Victorian) way.

“Don’t get me wrong, he’s run some good races that way, but it’s interesting reading.”

In a scary sign for his rivals, Widdison doesn’t think he’s reached the bottom of the well with The Prodigal Son, who is the ultimate professional. 

“What helps is that he has the best attitude of all time,” Widdison said. 

“He’s a casual horse around the stable. He does his job and takes it all in his stride.

“He’s a no-fuss horse and just one of those dream horses that travels well, and you really don’t have to worry about anything.”

While a Wagga Town Plate win was hard to top, Duped By Spin’s win in the $30,000 1600 m Benchmark 66 Handicap capped off an emphatic first day of the Wagga Gold Cup carnival for Widdison. 

Ridden by Nick Souquet, it was the five-year-old’s fifth career win when triumphing by a quarter of a length.

“It’s interesting because The Prodigal Son and Duped (By Spin) came into the stable at the same time as young horses,” Widdison said. 

“They did all their work together and were galloping mates from day one, and they are both different horses, but they have gone on with it and have good records.”

Souquet has enjoyed a lot of success with Widdison over the years, and it was another great ride by the veteran, who timed his run to perfection on the Kooringal Stud-raced Duporth mare. 

“Nick’s great; I’ve been good mates with Nick, and he’s been part of my stable for a long time. He does all our main gallops,” Widdison said.

“Sometimes he misses out when they get down in the weights, but he soldiers on; he’s a great man to have around the place.”

Widdison will be a little closer to home on Friday, with his stable set to start up to three chances on the Albury program.