TRAINER Craig Widdison claimed a rare slice of history when Willi Willi swamped his rivals to claim the $100,000 Wodonga Gold Cup, (1590m) yesterday.
In front of the biggest ever cup day crowd, Widdison became the first trainer to win the Border Cup double since Brian Cox two decades ago.
Willi Willi claimed the $170,000 Albury feature last year and yesterday was his first win in 10 attempts since his Albury triumph.
Cox, who was tragically killed in a truck accident last month, remarkably achieved the feat in successive years with Lucky Enough (Albury Cup) and Ekalaka (Wodonga Cup) in 1999.
The legendary trainer did it again the following year with Ekalaka (Albury Cup) and Black Be It (Wodonga Cup).
Bookmakers yesterday gave Willi Willi little chance of winning his home town feature with as much as 33/1 available.
Despite being a longshot, Widdison said he had never lost faith in his stable star.
"It's an awesome feeling being able to win your hometown cup," Widdison said.
"I really do feel privileged and to do it with Willi Willi makes it that extra bit special.
"It's nearly been two years since he has won a race but a lot of his runs were a lot better than they looked on paper.
"As they say, form fluctuates but class is permanent and I knew he had another big race win in him.
"I don't know how many other trainers have attempted the Albury-Wodonga Cup double but it is satisfying to have my name on both honour rolls now."
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In one of Widdison's finest training performances, Willi Willi was able to claim the $100,000 feature second-up from a spell.
The six-year-old finished at the tail of the field in group 3 company at Flemington when resuming earlier this month.
Widdison had a three-pronged attack in the race with Wyangle and Ruby Skye also among the 12 runners in the cup.
Wyangle opened up at $31 on Wednesday night and was crunched into around the $5 mark early on Cup day.
But Wyangle was never a factor after not having much luck once again up the home straight.
THE Ron Stubbs-trained Spunlago circled the field out wide with a big sprint and hit the front entering the straight.
But Willi Willi burst through an opening closer to the fence and the pair cleared out to fight out the finish.
Willi Willi took the entire straight to get past Spunlago ($10) and in a thrilling finish prevailed by a nose with jockey Jarrod Fry aboard.
The Mick Price-trained Starouz ($4) was a further 1.5-lengths back in third.
Willi Willi is owned by John and Helen McPhee who were long time supporters of the Brian Cox stable before he was suspended in 2016.
It was the McPhee's sixth Wodonga Cup success and first with Widdison who took over the training of their horses when he relocated to Wodonga almost three years ago.
"I could see Willi Willi pushing through once they entered the straight," Widdison said.
"I thought once he got a sniff they wouldn't get past him because he is such a tough bugger.
"The support I have received since moving back to Wodonga has been phenomenal.
"John and Helen McPhee have been huge supporters.
"To be given that many horses to train can't be underestimated.
"They're tough, honest horses which makes my job a lot easier.
"Especially this horse who has helped put me on the map and you can see why John loves the horse so much as well."
Willi Willi is expected to head back to the city for his next start.