Gary Harley – Herald – 30.03.23

The last of the qualifiers for the $500,000 Polytrack Provincial Midway Championship Final will be held at Newcastle this Thursday. It is the Wildcard and the first three placegetters will head to Randwick for the final on April 8, the second day of the Championships.

Kris Lees has dominated the series winning four of the eight finals. The Newcastle premier trainer will run four of his team in Thursdays qualifier- Loch Eagle, Spangler, Willinga Freefall and Baltic Coast. Loch Eagle is the best fancied in betting and the Kiwi owned son of Lonhro only has to produce his best form to go close. Loch Eagle had his first run in 2023 in the Gosford Provincial Qualifier over 1200m on March 16. He found the trip too short and finished out of a place. The 4-year-old will have conditions to suit on Thursday. The Newcatsle track received 84mm of rain in the week ending Wednesday at 9.00am. Loch Eagle has won twice on very heavy tracks and one on a soft track. He has a good second up record and the long straight and 1400m is ideal. Lees’ apprentice Dylan Gibbons has the mount.

Lees has already qualified two of his team for the final – Cloudland and last Saturday’s brilliant Wyong winner Acquitted. Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup has already qualified Short Shorts, Phearson and Cross the Rubicon for the final and he will saddle up the Wildcard favourite The Poacher on Thursday. The Poacher has won four from nine and he is fit after two runs this prep. In the Spring he won two on the trot at Rosehill and Warwick Farm. Not surprisingly, the Wildcard has attracted a cracking field.

Arrowfield’s Dundeel mare Mirror Queen steps up to a suitable trip when she contests the 1850m PFD Foodservice Benchmark 64 Handicap on Thursday. The mare has won four from nine and two from four on wet tracks. Aaron Bullock currently in fourth place in the Australian Jockeys Premiership with 105 ½ winners has the mount on Mirror Queen.

Two promising sprinters will do battle in the final event the Coastline Pools and Spas Provincial Class 1 Handicap (1200m). Both Jedibeel (Brad Widdup) and Karedada (Angela Davies) are lightly raced. The New Zealand bred Jedibeel bolted in with a Hawkesbury maiden on a soft 6 on debut on March 14. Karedada has not raced since a 6-length win on the Beaumont track in October. The track that day was a heavy 10. He has had two quiet recent trials.