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Craig Widdison gets on the board in town

Over the seasons trainer Craig Widdison has been no stranger to the winner’s enclosure at metropolitan meetings in Melbourne.

But the win of Willi Willi at Sandown on Wednesday is one he will always remember.

It was Widdison’s first city success since he branched out on his own just over four months ago.

After four years in a training partnership with Peter Morgan at Whittlesea, Widdison returned home to Wodonga to take over the stables of Brian Cox.

Cox was disqualified last November for 3-1/2 years in relation to the use of steroids in his stable.

Widdison had a successful partnership with Morgan with victories at stakes level with horses like Star Rolling, Oasis Bloom and Eloping.

Willi Willi gave Widdison his eighth winner since his return to Wodonga.

“I’ve had a couple of runners in town but today’s the first winner,” Widdison said.

“It’s a good lifestyle up there and it’s good to have the family back home.

“It’s all going well.”

Willi Willi is raced by John and Helen McPhee who were great supporters of the Cox stable and have retained a number of horses with Widdison.

“It’s good to get a winner for the McPhee’s in town,” Widdison said.

“They’ve thrown a heap of support to me from day one.”

Ridden by Craig Williams, Willi Willi ($14) scored by 1-3/4 lengths from the $3 favourite Diamonds Are with Solo Heart ($6.50) a long neck away third.

Williams, who extended his lead to six over apprentice Beau Mertens in the Melbourne jockeys’ premiership with his win on Willi Willi, said the gelding was up to winning better races in town while the tracks were wet.

“He’s been really well managed and Craig’s got a lot of time for the horse,” Williams said.

“He came here with good form lines through Fuhryk and was quite dominant in the final stages of the race.”

Mertens missed riding on Wednesday after being stood down at the completion of Tuesday’s meeting at Flemington because of illness.

He missed the winning ride on the Patrick Payne-trained Alamonteel in the Hyland Race Colours Handicap.

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