FRIDAY: April 21, 2023: THE Provincial-Midway and Country Championships Final winners will both be in action at Hawkesbury tomorrow.
Leading Newcastle trainer Kris Lees this morning gave the go-ahead for Provincial-Midway champion Spangler (James McDonald) to start at Hawkesbury after scratching him from today’s $200,000 Big Dance Eligibility Tamworth Cup (1400m).
He held off making a decision to check the track condition at Tamworth, where it has been rated as an improving “Good 4”.
Hawkesbury course manager Rick Johnston has retained a “Soft 5” rating for tomorrow’s 10-race stand-alone fixture after the track received only 1.5mm of rain in the past 24 hours (5mm in the last seven days).
Lees makes a three-pronged tilt at the Benchmark 88 Handicap, also starting Acquitted (Brenton Avdulla) and Rogue Bear (Dylan Gibbons).
Spangler relished the wet ground and, aided by a brilliant McDonald ride, bolted away with the $500,000 Polytrack Provincial-Midway Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 8 on Day 2 of The Championships.
“Spangler has trained on since winning at Randwick, and whilst the Hawkesbury race looks very competitive, I’m sure he will run well again.
“Of course any further rain would be very welcome for both Spangler and Acquitted.”
Three of UK import Spangler’s four career victories (two of them in Australia) have been on heavy tracks.
Lees also withdrew Acquitted from the Tamworth Cup to go to Hawkesbury. Like Spangler, he relished a heavy track to easily win the Wyong Qualifier (1350m) on March 25 (runner-up Cross The Rubicon subsequently ran third in the Final), but an elevated temperature on race morning forced his withdrawal from taking his place in the Final.
“He recovered quickly and is ready to resume his preparation tomorrow,” Lees said.
“The Benchmark 88 is the last of 10 races, and you would have to think the track will be getting chopped up by then with so much traffic on it during the afternoon.
“Rogue Bear was good first-up when beaten just over a length at Hawkesbury on April 5, and has come on since that run.”
Such has been Country Championships Final victor Sizzle Minizzle’s progress that it was only 12 months ago when he began his career as a two-year-old in the Star Kingdom Stakes (1000m) at Muswellbrook and finished sixth to Insurrection as a $17 chance.
A now $35,000 yearling bargain buy, Dubbo-trained Sizzle Minizzle boosted his earnings to beyond $500,000 when he landed the Country Final (1400m) at Randwick on April 1 as a $61 roughie.
Sam Clipperton rode the three-year-old then, and partners him again in tomorrow’s $200,000 Group 3 Blacktown Workers Club Group Hawkesbury Guineas (1400m).
Lees has enjoyed previous success at the Hawkesbury stand-alone, and is taking a big team there tomorrow.
As well as his Benchmark 88 trio, he has runners in all four black type races; Night Of Romance (Listed Hawkesbury XXXX Gold Rush, 1100m), Razeta (Group 3 Blacktown Workers Club Hawkesbury Guineas, 1400m), Never Talk (Group 3 Pioneer Services Hawkesbury Crown, 1300m), and Hosier (Group 3 Richmond Club Hawkesbury Gold Cup, 1600m).
Lees’ other representatives in supporting races are Sir Lamorak (Blakes Marine Benchmark 78 Handicap, 2100m), and Spellcatcher (The Lawn Shed Benchmark 78 Handicap, 1100m).
He won the Gold Rush in 2017 with Felines and again in 2020 (with Tactical Advantage) when the Hawkesbury meeting was transferred to Rosehill Gardens at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, and is especially keen to start former Irish mare Night Of Romance in this year’s renewal.
“She raced too aggressively in the Group 2 Hot Danish over 1400m at Rosehill last November at her first and only Australian start, and was still less than four lengths from the winner Sheza Belter,” Lees said.
“Night Of Romance has also been a bit aggressive in her recent trials, and that’s why I am kicking her off at the 1100m.
“I’m not ruling her out of the chances either, but this race should set her up nicely for a good preparation.”
Lees finished fourth in last year’s Guineas with Loch Eagle (running in today’s Tamworth Cup), and likes the chances of last start impressive Randwick South Pacific Classic winner Razeta.
“Whilst she is unbeaten twice on heavy ground, she is effective on good surfaces as well,” he said.
“Razeta is in great order, and I’m looking forward to seeing her run well again.
“It’s the same with Never Talk, who certainly deserves another win.
“She was strong to the line when second to Zapateo in the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes at Randwick last time, and the extra 100m tomorrow suits.”
Lees has excused Hosier’s first-up defeat when sixth in the Muswellbrook Gold Cup (1500m) on March 31.
“The track was starting to firm up by the time the Cup was run that day, and he is definitely better on softer ground (he has won six from eight on soft tracks and unbeaten in one start on the heavy),” Lees said.
“Obviously tomorrow’s Cup is harder, but he drops 4kg to 54kg and is going well.”
. The mammoth program begins at 11.20am, and gates open at 10.30am.