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PROVINCIAL-MIDWAY Championship Final winner Spangler has blinkers back on as Kris

Lees seeks a Big Dance “consolation” at Royal Randwick tomorrow.

The leading Newcastle trainer won the inaugural $2m The Big Dance at Randwick 12 months ago with Rustic Steel, but doesn’t have a runner this year.

So he is leaving no stone unturned to land the $750,000 Little Dance (1600m) with either Spangler, or first emergency Loch Eagle if he secures a start.

“I’ve been waiting to put blinkers back on Spangler again, and this is the right race,” Lees said from Melbourne this morning where he is putting the finishing touches to Cleveland and Kalapour’s preparation for tomorrow’s $8.4m Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington.

“The wetter the better for Spangler,” Lees added, delighted with the news that yesterday’s coastal rain softened the Randwick course proper to a “Soft 6”.

Spangler raced in blinkers when he relished a heavy surface to easily defeat stablemate Loch Eagle in the $500,000 Provincial-Midway Final (1400m) at Randwick in April, and has been beaten only once in four starts on that type of ground.

However, he took the gear off before the gelding began his latest campaign when an eye-catching close fifth over 1400m at Rosehill Gardens on August 26.

Spangler also raced without blinkers when third in the Group 3 Cameron Handicap (1500m) at home on September 15 and again when he came from well back to finish fifth in the Big Dance Wildcard (1600m) at Randwick on October 21.

“Now is the right time to put them back on, and the rain has come at the right time as well,” Lees said.

Tommy Berry rode Spangler at his last start, and had no hesitation sticking with him tomorrow.

Lees is hoping for a scratching to also enable Loch Eagle to contest the Little Dance, having just failed to clinch a Big Dance berth when an excellent third in the Wildcard.

“Loch Eagle ran really well in the Wildcard, and can do so again from an inside draw if he makes the field, otherwise he will run in the Benchmark 88 Handicap (1500m), where he has also drawn well.”

Nash Rawiller is booked for Loch Eagle in the latter race, where Lees also has Rogue Bear (Berry), who carried a big weight to score first-up over 1400m at Taree before also performing well in the Big Dance Wildcard when seventh.

Lees’ other Randwick runner tomorrow is Power Of The Brave (Rawiller) in the Benchmark 64 Handicap (1300m).

“Coming back 100m will suit from his latest third on the Kensington track, and he’s also down slightly in grade,” Lees said.

. Lees cannot fault both Cleveland (Michael Dee) and Kalapour (Zac Lloyd) in the lead-up to tomorrow’s Melbourne Cup, but can’t predict what will happen from their awkward draws (23 and 14 respectively).

“I’m expecting both to roll forward, and hopefully they can get good positions,” he said.

“Cleveland has trained on well since his Valley Gold Cup win, and won over 3700m in the UK last year, so the distance isn’t a problem.

“Kalapour is unknown at 3200m, but won over 2500m in Ireland two years ago and his last two runs have been at 2600m and 2500m, so he’s seasoned enough.

“The important thing is we’ve got two fit horses going into the Cup as last-start winners.”

Lees has four runners on Cup day, also saddling Baltic Coast (Dylan Gibbons) for the greys’ Subzero Handicap (1400m),and Inver Park (Jamie Spencer) for the Benchmark 90 Handicap (1400m).

Lees finished third with Powerline (Hugh Bowman) in the 2017 edition of the Subzero, and says Baltic Coast should not be discounted.

“Principally I wanted to give Dylan a look at the track before he rides Okita Soushi in the Cup, but I am giving Baltic Coast a good chance.

“He ran second first-up to The Big Dance co-favorite Iknowastar on the Kensington track, and the greys’ race is a lot different to his last run in the Wildcard.

“Inver Park is going better than his form indicates, and can run well from a favorable draw.”

. Fellow provincial trainers Terry Croft (Hawkesbury) and Tracey Bartley (Wyong) also have confirmed Big Dance runners.

Croft will be represented by Mudgee Cup runner-up Royalzel(Ash Morgan) and Forbes Cup winner Just A Brother (apprentice Jett Stanley), and Bartley by Coonamble Cup runner-up Irish Kisses (Reece Jones).

*Story John Curtis, November 6, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos*

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