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AN injury has robbed Kris Lees of a crack at tomorrow’s $1m The Gong at Kembla Grange with Spangler just as the rain arrived on time.

The leading Newcastle trainer was forced to withdraw the accomplished wet tracker this morning from the 1600m feature around a similar time to the track being downgraded to a “Soft 6” after 14mm had fallen in the last 24 hours.

Now his hopes of having a runner in Illawarra Turf Club’s richest race rely on another withdrawal to give second emergency and $17 chance Loch Eagle (Reece Jones) a berth in the capacity field of 16.

“Unfortunately Spangler wrenched a joint and will have to go out,” an understandably disappointed Lees said this morning.

“It’s a real shame as the conditions were going to suit him.

“Loch Eagle will definitely run if we get a start, otherwise he will line up in the Benchmark 88 Handicap over the same distance at The Gong.

“A wet track won’t worry him either as he has won on both soft and heavy ground.

“Loch Eagle has trained on well since easily winning a similar race over 1500m at Royal Randwick earlier in the month.

“He isn’t without a hope either if he gets into The Gong field, and has gone up only 1.5kg to 60.5kg for the Benchmark 88, where he should be hard to beat again.”

Spangler’s absence has left Lees with four runners (and perhaps only three) on the 10-race program, as dual acceptor Per Inaway will miss the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1200m) against her own sex to instead line up at Canterbury tonight, and Cloudland has been withdrawn from the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1400m), where he has Baltic Coast (Dylan Gibbons) and Dream Hour (Nash Rawiller).

“I’m not sure at this stage about running Dream Hour,” Lees said. “I’ll see if there is further rain and how the track is.

“Dream Hour hasn’t won on soft or heavy ground.

“Baltic Coast is probably looking for further than 1400m having raced over 1600m last time, but has won on heavy ground.”

Brudenell (Gibbons) resumes in the main supporting race, the $300,000 The Warra (1000m), looking to build on his excellent record of six wins from 11 starts.

“Brudenell is a very consistent horse, but has been well found in the market,” Lees said.

“I’m happy with how he is progressing, but a bit guarded about how the track will play near the inside if there is more rain.

“His inside draw might not be the advantage it first appeared.”

. In spite of the capacity field, only four horses are under double figures with

Osipenko heads betting at $3.30, ahead of Detonator Jack ($5), Waterford ($7) and topweight Cepheus ($7.50), and both first and second favorites will race in blinkers for the first time.

Whilst Rob and Luke Price’s $51 outsider Cuban Royale may be the provincial’s sole representative in The Gong, Newcastle trainers are strongly represented in The Warra.

Along with Lees’ Brudenell ($4.80 favorite), Jason Deamer has Hard To Say ($12) and Mark Minervini runs Quick Tempo ($14).

Hard To Say goes into The Warra on the back of four consecutive wins after being so well placed both in Sydney and Brisbane by his trainer, and similarly, Minervini has won seven races with Quick Tempo, who was excellent scoring over 1000m with 60.5kg at Royal Randwick on November 7.

*Story John Curtis, November 24, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos

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