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BY his lofty standards, Kris Lees looked like having slim pickings this year in his chase for a fifth Provincial-Midway Championship Final and third in a row.

From numbers of seven, six and five representatives in the previous three years, he had only two qualifiers from the first six heats.

But a trifecta result in the “last chance” Wildcard at home on March 30 boosted his team to five for Saturday’s $500,000 Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick – and he says any one of them can win without surprising.

“There’s really not much between them,” he said.

“Whilst the barrier draws haven’t been kind to us, it may prove to be an advantage rather than a disadvantage if the track continues to stay in the Heavy range.”

Lees’ representatives are Acquitted (Hugh Bowman), Loch Eagle (Dylan Gibbons pictured above), Spangler (James McDonald), Cloudland (Nash Rawiller) and Willinga Freefall (Joao Moreira).

In latest betting, Loch Eagle is $6 second favorite, Acquitted is at $8, Spangler $14, Cloudland $18, and Willinga Freefall is the roughie of the five at $34.

“Acquitted was very good winning the Wyong Qualifier on heavy ground last time, so the conditions will certainly suit him,” Lees said.

“He has won three from four on heavy tracks.

“Loch Eagle showed his best form storming home to win the Wildcard at home and is also adept on heavy ground.

“Spangler would be better off at 1600m, but the track conditions could easily play into his hands as he is also proven on heavy surfaces.

“Cloudland was good first-up when chasing home the winner (Short Shorts) of the Kembla Grange Qualifier, who ran a new track record.

“I have given him time to get over that tough run, and also decided to put blinkers on him as I have always been keeping that up my sleeve.

“He always gives himself a chance by being able to take a position in the first half of the field.

“Willinga Freefall has done a good job being placed in the Hawkesbury Qualifier and Newcastle Wildcard, and was fourth in the Wyong Qualifier behind Acquitted.

“He goes into the Final very fit with that solid recent racing behind him.”

Lees has also opted for blinkers on Never Talk (Dylan Gibbons) in the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes (1200m).

“Being a wet tracker, she will obviously love the conditions, especially if there is more rain,” he said.

“It’s a little gear change with the blinkers, and hopefully they do the job.”

Lees also accepted with Night Of Romance in the same race. She is scheduled to resume, but is not yet a confirmed starter.

Razeta (Dylan Gibbons) is Lees’ other representative on Day 2 of The Championships. She runs in the Listed South Pacific Classic (1400m) for three-year-olds; the race in which Loch Eagle ran second 12 months ago.

“Razeta has done well since returning from Melbourne, where she failed in a Group 2 over 1600m,” Lees said.

“She comes back to a more suitable 1400m and won on a debut on a heavy track at Wyong in June last year.”

Lees has a number of runners at his home track meeting on Saturday, and also two representatives at the corresponding Doomben meeting.

“Tiva Bay is a rough chance in the 2300m Benchmark 64 Handicap, whilst Better Not Bitter is looking for the 1500m of the Maiden Handicap, and should run well,” Lees said.

“Highly Ambitious and Rose Crescent can both be very competitive in the 1200m Benchmark 68 Handicap.”

Lees accepted with Little Beginnings, Yankee Hussel and Barcoo River in the Provincial Class 1 Handicap (1200m), but the latter will race at Muswellbrook on Sunday instead.

“Little Beginnings made nice ground when fourth on resumption at Scone, and takes improvement going into this race,” Lees said.

“Yankee Hussel is looking for a bit further but also ran well fresh in what has turned out to be a good form race (the winner Shohei was narrowly beaten in the Gold Bracelet at the Bendigo metro meeting last Saturday).”

Lees also runs Terrameades in the Benchmark 68 Handicap (1600m) at Newcastle, where the rail is 7m out for the entire circuit.

“Terrameades has contested two heats of the Provincial-Midway Championships, and goes back to a more suitable assignment,” he said.

“She is shaping as though the 1600m will be to her liking.”

. Hype (Andrew Mallyon) in the Class 3 Plate (1640m) and Animate (Jim Byrne) in the Quality Handicap (1350m) are the stable’s Brisbane pair.

“Hype is definitely going to appreciate getting up to the 1600m after two shorter runs, and has a good chance, whilst Animate is always a chance in this type of race and is in good form,” Lees said.

*Words John Curtis - April 6. 2023* Pic - Bradley Photos

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